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Kelechi Iheanacho and the murky world of modern transfers

Announce Iheanacho

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City - 2016 International Championship Cup China Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

As the summer slowly draws on, steadfastly refusing to allow football to come back, you can sense the fans becoming more and more restless. For a team like Leicester City, who’ve had a pretty quiet summer, you can feel it especially. The fans wants something. Hard to tell exactly what but

I guess we’ll never really know exactly what would appease them.

I’ll tell you what might help though: how about some news on the ongoing transfer of Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho? The Foxes were linked with him in June and by the start of July a deal seemed as good as done and yet still nothing. In fact, there’s been almost no news or updates at all for a while. You can see why fans are getting frustrated.

Why is it taking so long and why have we heard so little? Simply put, it’s a complicated deal that seems to fall into two completely unrelated parts.

The actual transfer deal

In The Good Old Days* transfers were a much simpler business. You negotiated a fee with the club, then a contract with the player and that was that. As far as most reports are concerned, those first two deals are as good as done.

At the start of the month Sky Sports reported that the two clubs had agreed in principal on a fee that could rise to £25m. They also claimed that Iheanacho was keen on the move and reports since have suggested that a contract has been agreed between club and player.

However, the original Sky report also acknowledged that there was a still a dispute between the clubs on the inclusion of a buy back clause. During their preseason tour, manager Pep Guardiola told the media that the deal would definitely include one and this does seem to have been a sticking point for both teams.

The problem for the Foxes is that Man City have no need to sell, so if we want to buy (and we do), eventually we will need to give some ground towards their demands. Management may hold out a while longer, but it’ll be £25m, with a buy back in the £35-40m range.

When you consider his age, record, the inflated price of Premier League transfers and competition from the likes of West Ham, it’s a pretty good deal.

*they were ok, but we’d never won the league back then

The image rights dispute

Almost all of the complexity in this deal, comes from this incredibly murky aspect. Leicester City aren’t involved in these dealings, so there’s not a lot they can do influence them. Oddly, this doesn’t really involve Manchester City or Kelechi Iheanacho either.

At the age of 16, Iheanacho signed over his image rights to an agency called First Eleven. For reasons that I don’t know nearly enough law to go into, last December Iheanacho began legal proceedings against two lawyers from First Eleven to dissolve his contract with them and seek punitive damages.

Earlier this month (shortly after Sky’s report of an agreement), a court ruled in favour of First Eleven, confirming them as the owners of Iheanacho’s image rights.

Why is this an issue for the transfer? Well, it appears to be because the deal between Leicester City and Manchester City was brokered by Iheanacho’s new management group Stellar, not First Eleven. In their article on the subject, OwngoalNigeria claimed that the two sides were willing to settle for the sake of the transfer, but as yet we’ve had no news on this.

What does this actually mean?

The chances of the deal going through are still very high. I’d be incredibly surprised if it didn’t happen at some time before the end of the current transfer window.

Leicester and Iheanacho appear to have reached an agreement. Leicester and Manchester City may not have, but they were close nearly a month ago. For what it’s worth, on July 20th, during the USA tour, Pep thought the deal would be done by the end of the month.

Kelechi is a young player. It was easy, an honour to work with him, because it's not easy for him, I didn't give him a lot of choices. But he's close to making a transfer. Maybe in the next week, in the next 10 days, it's going to finish.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t get across the line until some kind of agreement is made, which transfers his image rights to Stellar.

It’s frustrating for us fans because it’s invisible and it has nothing to do with football, but it’s a huge money business these days, which means nothing is simple and it takes forever.

Hopefully he’ll be worth it.