It feels like Leicester City have been through a rough patch of outward transfers recently. We’ve had two straight windows of constant Riyad Mahrez strife, and we lost key contributors N’golo Kanté and Danny Drinkwater in back to back summers. Suddenly there are rumours that the big clubs are circling over our latest stars Wilfred Ndidi and Harry Maguire. Why is this all happening at once?
The answer is actually depressingly simple: because we have good players now, and other teams want them.
That’s how football works these days, especially in the Premier League. Yes, we have lots of money now, but if the Mahrez saga, or Alexis Sanchez, Neymar or Coutinho’s stories have shown us anything it’s that there comes a point when money simply doesn't matter.
When Danny Drinkwater seemingly forced through a transfer to Chelsea this summer, fans took it as a personal slight, but was it really any different from a number of other transfers in the same window?
Manchester United came calling for Romelu Lukaku and Everton knew they couldnt stop him leaving. In turn, they poached players from smaller Premier League teams like Burnley and Swansea. Burnley then took Chris Wood from Championship Leeds. That’s just how it goes.
That’s exactly how we have great young talents like Maguire, Ndidi and Demarai Gray. They ‘outgrew’ the clubs they were at, Leicester were interested and they returned the interest.
And here's to you Danny benchwarmer, chelseas bench is all that you will know.., wo wo wo wo. #lcfc— phil_1965 (@phil_1965) September 9, 2017
So why the upset over Drinkwater?
Mostly, I think, it’s because Leicester fans have had a ludicrously fortunate ride up to this point, in terms of the sale of first team players. We just aren't used to it.
Kanté left the year before, but there were exceptional circumstances there. We’d been told all summer that our three biggest stars were certain to leave, so when we actually held onto two of them, it felt like a win. Before that, you have to go a long way to find anything resembling the Drinkwater deal.
This a good place to see all he transfers in and out of the club, going back decades. I challenge you to go through it and find the last important first team player the Foxes sold.
Personally, I’d argue that it was David Connolly in August 2005, or 11 years before Kanté was sold.
Leicester City have sold just two players (David Connolly and Matt Mills) for more than £2m since July 2002. That's madness.— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 27, 2014
There’s a very good reason we didn't lose anyone for a while after that: all the players were just awful. Every single one. For at least five years. Then there’s the owners, who bring the perfect combination of rich and stubborn to keep the best players around. But there was some luck involved too.
When your best goalkeeper is Chris Weale, it’s fair enough to not expect clubs to be tripping over each other trying to take him from you. When it’s Kasper Schmeichel, it’s a little more puzzling because he’s a fantastic player and they can hardly argue they hadn’t heard of him.
Jamie Vardy and Drinkwater were two of the Championship’s best players during our promotion season, but no one was interested. That’s very fortunate for us.
We had impeccable timing, too. If any of Schmeichel, Morgan, Drinkwater, Mahrez or Vardy had been individually at their best in the first season up, we’d have survived more comfortably, but they’d have moved on before we had a chance at the title.
I’m not saying we should like the system how it is, and that we should wave our players off with a cheery smile as they move on to teams they consider bigger or better, I’m just saying that’s how it seems to be.
Jamie Vardy will probably stay for as long as the club wants him, but he’s an odd situation because team and player are very rarely such an exceptional fit. Mahrez, Ndidi and Maguire are all incredible talents that any club in the league, and almost any in the world, would love to have and one day those other clubs will have them.
That’s fine, we found these guys and we’ll find some more. Recent windows have shown us that we have the pulling power to take players from teams like Sporting whenever we want, so this benefits us as much as it hurts.
The future for Leicester City is bright, but it’s not one that includes those three players, so I suggest we focus on the present.
And by the present I mean the dreams I’m presently having about lifting the FA cup in May.