What does the future hold for Wilfred Ndidi at Leicester City?
Leicester City achieved the improbable, winning the Premier League in 2016. Going from relegation strugglers to champions shocked the world. Falling back to earth, not so much. Under Claude Puel, the Foxes became relevant again, last term.
Unfortunately, The club hasn't the wherewithal to compete with the topflight's high and mighty on a consistent basis. Staying in the league is not such a huge task. Keeping the players who can repeat 2015/16's heroics is another matter. The big six pick off their best players with impunity.
First in line was midfield rock, N'golo Kante. The Frenchman was an unknown quantity when he arrived from Caen in 2015. His work rate in the centre of the pack in conjunction with partner Danny Drinkwater was pivotal to the team's surprising success. Chelsea came calling and he switched the King Power Stadium for Stamford Bridge. Drinkwater joined him a year later.
Their exodus made leaving more difficult for right winger Riyad Mahrez. After a prolonged battle with the club, he procured a transfer to Manchester City this summer. Unlike Kante, who helped Chelsea to the title in his first campaign, Mahrez arrived at the Etihad with the Citizens already celebrating.
The Foxes used the money from all three stars to retool. Wilfred Ndidi was therefore brought in from Genk in January 2017. The Nigerian filled the gaping hole left by Kante. The 21-year-old was the Premier League's top tackler last season, then made the most tackles in the 2018 World Cup group stage. Named Young Player of the Year for the two seasons he's featured, Ndidi is attracting attention himself.
After fighting off advances from Manchester United for defender Harry Maguire, another World Cup star, Leicester is doing all it can to keep its core intact. Ndidi, Maguire and Jamie Vardy are critical to puel's project. He lifted the club back into the table's top half after a 12th-place finish in 2016/17. All three penned new contracts, Ndidi the last. He signed a new six-year contract intended to keep him at the club till 2024. Afterwards, he expressed his delight.
I am very happy to sign this contract with Leicester City. I have enjoyed every moment of my time with the football club, so I'm thrilled to be here for six more years.
However, given top clubs' willingness to trigger audacious release clauses, it won't be surprising if he becomes the next sought after shiny toy. Seeking alternatives to Fernandinho, Manchester City already missed out on Fred and Jorginho, Ndidi could be their next target.
If he puts in another solid season for the Foxes, it could be his last. The same applies to Harry Maguire. Leicester lack the funding and status to buy a ready-made replacement when they lose a world-class player. As noted, Ndidi was a value buy who came good as Kante's replacement. The club purchased Algerian right wing Rachid Ghezzal for €14 million from Monaco hoping he'll prove to be the next Riyad Mahrez. If playmaker James Maddison, procured from Norwich for €25 million continues to impress, he'll become another jewel to be pilfered.
Whether they like it or not, Leicester City's best future is life as a selling club.