5 Leicester City title-winners who could join Claudio Ranieri at Fulham
Background image: Kenneth Yarham, CC BY-SA 2.0
Claudio Ranieri and Leicester City, two names that will always be associated with achieving the seemingly impossible. The Italian manager led the club to their only top division title to date in 2016, beating odds of 5000-1. That was almost three years ago, and things have inevitably changed since then. Ranieri is now manager of Fulham, having signed a ‘multi-year contract’ earlier in the month.
The Tinkerman faces his former club for the first time later today, as Leicester travel to Craven Cottage for a 7.45 kick off. Ahead of the game, as expected, Fulham have already been linked to players who Ranieri managed while at the King Power Stadium. So, which of tonight’s visiting players or players who have moved to pastures new are the most likely to rejoin their former manager?
Andy King is currently Leicester City’s longest serving player, having joined the club at 16 years of age. The 30-year-old has played his entire career at the King Power Stadium (apart from a brief loan spell at Swansea at the end of last season). He is the only player to win the League 1, Championship and Premier League title with the same club. However, under Claude Puel, King has found his playing time has dwindled, and was not included in the 25 man Premier League squad at the start of the season.
It may be a wrench for both the club and the player, but reports suggest that King is ready to move on from the Midlands. Joining his former manager at Craven Cottage may be a good option. The midfielder is a reliable presence both on and off the pitch and will provide much needed Premier League experience in Fulham’s squad.
Danny Simpson was an integral part of Ranieri’s title-winning team at Leicester. The right-back was drafted into the side by the Italian manager after the team was leaking goals in the early part of the season. It proved to be a masterstroke and the defensive solidity of Simpson was one of the reasons that the clean sheets started to come (and earnt the team their pizza).
Defensively, Simpson is amongst the best right-backs in the league, however, he struggles in more advanced areas. With Leicester now playing a style that works better with advancing full-backs, Simpson has found playing time hard to come by. Before the injury to Daniel Amartey, the Englishman was left completely out in the cold, although he has since made a couple of appearances. That injury could make Leicester unwilling to let the 31-year-old go, but the full-back could help the Cottagers tighten up at the back, and earn that McDonald's meal that Ranieri has promised the players if they can keep a clean sheet.
Danny Drinkwater is now at Chelsea after a £35million move in 2017. But, the transfer hasn’t worked out for either the club or the player. The 28-year-old has failed to make an appearance for the Blues under Mauricio Sarri so far this season, and it is likely that he will be available for either a loan or permanent move in the next transfer window.
The midfielder played 37 games for Leicester under Claudio Ranieri and proved to be one of the main supply lines to talisman Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. With a striker such as Aleksandar Mitrović, who has proved that he has goals in him, and a manager who knows how to get the best out of him, Drinkwater could be an ideal signing for Fulham.
Robert Huth is available on a free transfer which will make the German somewhat of a risk-free signing for Ranieri. The 34-year-old would provide invaluable Premier League experience to a back line that can’t stop leaking goals. Huth signed for Leicester, initially on loan, in January 2015. It is generally accepted by Foxes fans that the club wouldn’t have pulled off the great escape, and therefore the title win, without the influence of the defender.
Although the signing of an experienced Premier League winner should seem like a no-brainer, Huth has been out of action with a long-term injury and it is unclear whether he will ever get back to full fitness. However, the impact that he may have on the dressing room could just make a short-term deal worthwhile.
Shinji Okazaki was probably the one player in the 2015/16 season who probably didn’t get the credit that he deserved. The Japan international played in the number 10 role behind the main striker. While the forward will never be the most prolific in front of goal (his best return for Leicester is six goals during the 2017/18 season), his hard work and constant harassing of the opponents' back line allows more space for other players to do their thing.
Okazaki quickly endeared himself to Leicester fans after signing, proving to be a fans favourite due to his hard-working nature, effort on the pitch, and of course, his beaming smile when the ball hits the back of the net. Although the 32-year-old isn't a regular starter for Puel, he is still getting some playing time at the King Power. Tearing him away from Leicester may depend on the business that the Midlands club does during the next transfer window, however, Ranieri may see the striker as a perfect foil for Mitrovic.