There are transfers of need and transfers of opportunity. A transfer of need is finding a replacement for Riyah Mahrez or Wes Morgan (should either depart), staples in the starting lineup. A transfer of opportunity is adding a player who might not otherwise have been available, or who is available for far less money than he would normally go for on the open market. The relegation of three recent Premier League fixtures in Stoke City, Swansea City, and West Bromwich Albion has provided Leicester City with some unique transfers of opportunity.
Players often have relegation release clauses in their contracts, which means a team can pay the player’s parent club the specified release amount and then are free to negotiate a contract with the released player. Once the release clause is triggered, the parent club is taken completely out of the equation. The option of whether or not to join the club that paid the release is completely up to the player.
Both Solomon Rondon’s and Xherdan Shaqiri’s parent clubs, West Brom and Stoke, respectively, were relegated. Both Rondon and Shaqiri have relegation release clauses in their contracts. And herein lies Leicester City’s transfers of opportunity.
Rondon’s relegation release clause is £16.5 million. Shaqiri’s is reported to be £12 million. The Foxes could add both players to their attack for £28.5 million, or, put another way, only £500,000 more than the fee paid for the recently loaned-out Islam Slimani.
Does Leicester have other needs? Of course, especially if Mahrez leaves. But this unique set of relegations gives Leicester the ability to create an attack with Jamie Vardy and Rondon upfront with Shaqiri either in the #10 role or at Mahrez’s old right-flank position. The front two of Vardy and Rondon is particulary appealing given their playing styles are almost complete opposites, with Vardy the always-running pest playing alongside the more physically imposing presence of Rondon. Add the flair of Shaqiri to the mix and the Foxes would possess one of the most fearsome attacks in the league.
And this is without even mentioning Demarai Gray, Shinji Okazaki, or Kelechi Iheanacho.
Rondon gives the club the depth it is lacking with the seemingly inevitable departures of Leonardo Ulloa and Slimani, gives Iheanacho more time to develop and grow into a starting role and to start based on form or crowded fixtures, not out of need (like, say right back at the end of the season), and gives Vardy the help up front he desperately needs.
As for Shaqiri, his motivation is sometimes questioned. Just like Mahrez. But he also scores off of free kicks and makes goals from impossible angles that take your breath away. Just like Mahrez. The fact that he can be had for a paltry £12 million (paltry only in terms of recent transfer fees) in the same window many believe the club will lose Mahrez is a coincidence the club can not afford to ignore. As for the wages the two will demand, these would be offset in the first few seasons by the small amount, thanks to the relegation release clauses, the club paid to bring them to Leicester.
There are transfers of need Leicester City will need to address this summer. But imagine the potential of the Foxes attack when the lineup options are Vardy, Rondon, Iheanacho, Gray, and Shaqiri. Considering the financial ease with which the club could make these transfers happen, the summer window presents a rare transfer opportunity the Foxes should not pass up. As for those transfers of need, if Mahrez is signed away this summer the fee the club would receive for his departure would cover the additions of Rondon and Shaqiri while leaving enough left over to ensure the needs are addressed. All this while breaking even.
Opportunities like this do not come along very often, and that is why Leicester City needs to take advantage of them.