Leicester City Football Club have announced the sale of England left-back Ben Chilwell to Chelsea for a reported fee of £50,000,000. The 23 year-old academy product becomes the third high-profile Fox to depart for Stamford Bridge in recent years, following N’Golo Kanté in 2016 and Danny Drinkwater in 2017. The transfer fee is the third-largest in club history behind last year’s sale of Harry Maguire to Manchester United and Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City the year before.
Chilwell was the club’s academy player of the year in 2014/15 and logged 99 senior matches with Leicester, scoring 4 goals and assisting 9 times. His final goal for the club, this summer against Watford, was his finest and should have been a game-winner.
Don’t let it auto-play to the next goal. Trust me on this.
So, that’s the news part of the story. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, so let’s dig in a little deeper:
Why Would The Club Let Him Go?
Chilwell is a young player, a full England international, and his best years are still ahead of him. This is the kind of player you’d expect a club like Leicester to fight tooth-and-nail to keep. Instead, they appear to have dropped their initial asking price and allowed the transfer to go through. Why would they do that?
That’s a fine question! As it turns out, none of us at the Fosse Posse have a seat in the board room and the club’s IT team appear to have found and disabled all of our listening devices, so this is just speculation, but hear us out:
- Chilwell was rumoured to be wanting this transfer. Keeping a player who doesn’t want to be with your club can be a dangerous game.
- Left back might be Leicester’s deepest position, with Christian Fuchs, James Justin, and Luke Thomas in the fold. None of them are Chilwell, but...well. more on that in a bit.
- Leicester were apparently not in a position to buy any players without first selling. One suspects that this is the key factor here.
Put it all together, and the club are selling a player who wanted to leave and who plays a position where we have depth in order to finance other moves. It makes sense, and it might even be accurate!
Why Is The Fan Reaction To His Departure So Mixed?
Another great question! Given Chilwell’s status as an academy product, his youth, and his rise to a top five player at his position (WhoScored has him behind Lucas Digne, Andy Robertson, Marco Alonso, and Rico at left-back), you’d think there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth about his departure. And, there absolutely is some of that:
Shame #LCFC couldn’t hang on to Chilwell. Maddison and Vardy extensions excellent but Rodgers needs to sign defenders (arguably three of them) https://t.co/NCuVuka99G— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) August 26, 2020
However, there’s been a lot of stick thrown Ben’s way. Helen has this angle well covered so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. I will say that I’m in the “mixed feelings” camp. I never questioned Chilly’s effort and his runs forward were beautiful to watch. On the other hand, he has always had a worrying tendency to give the ball away cheaply and that tendency wasn’t any less pronounced last year:
Ben Chilwell lost possession as a result of an unsuccessful touch more times per game than any other defender in the Premier League last season (1.9)#lcfc pic.twitter.com/1cT03wU3p9— The LCFC Stat Man (@TheLCFCStatMan) August 26, 2020
Actually, he led all players, not just defenders the previous year so perhaps he was improving?
I don’t think anyone questioned Chilly’s effort even after his head had obviously been turned by Frank Lampard’s interest, but I’m not sure the concentration was there and I think there were fans who picked up on that and saw it as disloyalty. It’s harsh to judge a young player that way, but it’s not completely unfair either.
I think that, at the end of the day, when a player is looking for an exit, the fans are going to turn on them. They’re wearing our shirt while they have one foot out the door.* It’s weird, isn’t it? If the a player has outstayed their welcome, the fans will almost always wish them the best when the end comes, but if they really wanted the player to stay, they’ll get salty.
* Someone ought to come up with a meme showing a guy with one girl but eyeing another. I feel like that could go viral.
What Does This Mean In The Big Picture?
We haven’t directly addressed the financial reasons for a young player to want to leave Leicester yet, have we? Reports say that Chilwell’s wages at Chelsea are £190,000/week. That’s 72% more than James Maddison just signed for. It’s 31% higher than Jamie Vardy’s new, improved contract. It’s hard to blame him for wanted to take that payday, isn’t it?
I expect to take a lot of grief for saying this, but Leicester City simply are not a “Big 6” club at this point. We may play like one, but part of being in that club involves financial resources and we’re just not at that level yet. Until we can afford wages like those at the Big 6, we’re going to be a selling club. We’re going to have to rely on shrewd purchases and strong development to fund our transfers, and we’re going to have to accept that we’ll lose some players to clubs who can afford greater wage bills.
So, what do you think about Chilwell’s departure? Happy to see him go? Sad we couldn’t keep him? Let us know!
What’s your reaction to Chilwell’s departure?
This poll is closed
Glad to see him go. Take the money and run.
I have mixed feelings about it.
He is/was one of our own. We shouldn’t have let him go.