Leicester City enter the new campaign with more optimism after a fairly turbulent season. The former Premier League champions were inconsistent domestically and were unable to defend their title with much intent, finishing twelfth—the lowest position for any champion in Premier League history—having sacked Claudio Ranieri; their great hero the season before. Their impressive Champions League run where they reached the quarter-final, however, provided a spark for the season.
They enter the current campaign without the fantasy or expectations which they raised for themselves a year ago. In a bid to rebuild their demoralised squad, they’ve already done some shrewd business with the signing of Harry Maguire, who had a fine campaign with the relegated Hull City last season. The 24-year-old is sure to bolster their unreliable back-line of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, and his youthfulness will be a positive.
The Foxes have also added the experience of former Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra, who will bring his qualities alongside the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Wilfried Ndidi. The Spaniard is a threat from set-pieces and his style is sure to add more goals to the side.
Another player Leicester are looking to add to their ranks is Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho from Premier League rivals Manchester City. The 20-year-old found first-team minutes hard to come by under Pep Guardiola last season, having made a positive impact in the season prior to that under Manuel Pellegrini.
Sky Sports reported that a fee of £25 million had been agreed between the two clubs with contractual obligations and the inclusion of a buy-back clause still being discussed between the three parties. While his addition will bring more stability to their attack, it will also create a few problems for manager Craig Shakespeare.
The Englishman, who was given the full-time job following his interim term, is targeting a more youthful approach as he looks to return to Europe. The signing of Iheanacho would suggest that he would have to get rid of one of his existing forwards to have a more settled squad.
They already have Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki, Leonardo Ulloa, Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani, the latter two of whom joined the club just last summer, but haven’t been able to hit top form. With such a problem, a departure or two looks very likely, but who will be amongst the list that departs the King Power Stadium this summer?
At this point, Algerian Islam Slimani looks the likeliest option after he failed to settle in at the club following his club-record £28 million move from Sporting CP. He played 23 times in the league and scored seven times; the second most amongst the five strikers present at the club last season, after Jamie Vardy. Should he leave, his former club Sporting have shown interest in bringing him back and the Lisbon side even tried to seal a loan move for him in January after he failed to cut it in his first six months in English football.
Ahmed Musa was probably worse than Islam Slimani with off-pitch issues making the news in the final weeks of the season. He struggled to earn a spot in the first-team, playing the second-fewest league minutes amongst their five forwards last season with 764; only Leandro Ulloa played fewer with 468. His lack of playing time also resulted in just two league goals as Leicester failed to get the best out of their £16 million investment. Still only 24, there will be no shortage of interest in him, but so far, only Turkish giants Fenerbahce have shown minute interest in him although no concrete deal has been agreed.
Leandro Ulloa is another one who will be likely to leave. The 30-year-old Argentine has been at the club since 2014 and barely played last season. He too was set to leave the club in January with Sunderland taking up his services, but a move was blocked at the last minute, with Ranieri citing that he would have a crucial role to play in Europe. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him leave this summer, however, with Shakespeare not keen on his qualities.
Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki are the most likely to remain at the club. The two were pivotal in their historic title-success of the 2015/16 season and Shakespeare is a keen admirer of their endless energy and commitment to the task. The two played the most minutes, with Vardy’s 13 goals making him the club’s top scorer and out-right best forward last season. Having either depart the club would also create a seismic shift in the manager’s plans as their style is what helped revive them from their slump in the first half of the season.
Add Iheanacho to the mix, and his four Premier League goals in 563 minutes were a better return than some of Leicester’s forwards last season. Having the Nigerian in the squad would certainly be a welcome addition, even at £25 million. With bags of potential, he can help Leicester challenge the top half of the table again and potentially return to Europe.
He would be the sixth forward at the club, however, and with no European football to help diversify playing minutes, it would mean someone will have to leave to settle the squad and help them progress. With around a month-and-a-half left in the window, only time will determine who stays and who goes by the end of the summer.