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Evaluating Leicester City’s Transfers Since 2015

If it seems like we’re not signing as many top players as we used to, there’s a good reason for that: We’re not.

Jakub Stolarczyk of Leicester City signs a new contract at Leicester City
Sorry to use your image for this, Jakub. This isn’t about you, but I needed a player putting pen to paper.
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Let’s start with the conclusion: When we buy players who are already top players, they are usually top players for us. When we buy players who are not already top players, they only very rarely become top players.

Remember the Good Old Days when it seemed like Leicester City could find gold wherever they looked? It felt as though every player we purchased turned into a star and we were the envy of every club, wealthy or not?

First of all, no you don’t. I’ll let you in on a little secret here: The players we brought in who became stars were already playing like stars. They may not have been everyone’s radar, but they were already playing at an extremely high level in a top league. Of the eight players who played at “star” level or above (definition below), six were already there and the other two were very close to it and very young as well.

Secondly, we missed on a lot of purchases, even during the 2015/16 windows. Memory’s a funny thing; we’re more likely to remember the N’Golo Kantes than the Yohan Benalouanes of the world. That’s probably for the best, and I say that meaning no insult to Yohan.

Leicester City Unveil New Signing Yohan Benalouane
In fairness, he was memorable, but not so much for his time on the pitch.
Photo byPlumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

It was in the summer of 2015 when I started paying attention to, a football player-rating site. I have no insight into what their method is, but I’ve found it to be directionally correct: If a player is rated highly, that player is almost always a good player. Any player who is rated at a 7.00 or higher is someone I’d consider a legitimate star. I’d never paid any attention to Kante or Christian Fuchs prior to that summer, but WhoScored had them rated at 7.36 and 7.30 respectively for the 2014/15 season, so I paid attention.

Sure enough, those two were absolutely terrific when they came to Leicester City and we had a pretty good season as a result. So, ever since them, I’ve included their ratings when evaluating players and I’ve found that, regardless of how they arrive at their numbers, they are very, very good numbers. My shorthand for evaluating their numbers is that, in addition to the stars, anyone in the 6.85-6.99 range is a good player, 6.70-6.84 is a squad guy, and anyone below is probably not going to last a starter.

You may say “Well, statistics are all well and good, but the match is played on the pitch,” and, having worked in this field, I’d say that you’re not wrong. There is no replacing actual scouts who see a player in person and are trained to see things that don’t show up in the numbers. However, there’s also a real need to step away from watching the tapes and evaluated a player based on what the statistics say. You need both in this day and age and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply wrong.

Here’s the methodology: I’ve looked at all of the players who we’ve brought from 2015 to the present and compared two numbers. Their last season where they started at least half their matches prior to joining the Foxes, and their first season where they started at least half their matches with Leicester. I had to leave out 5 players because we brought them in from leagues where WhoScored wasn’t doing ratings, so my apologies to James Justin, Ahmed Musa, Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi, and Patson Daka.

So, bear with me. If you couldn’t tell already, this is a long one, but I think the conclusions at the end are worth it. Let’s look at each year starting with 2015/16:

Transfers 2015/16

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2015/16 N'Golo Kante 24 France 7.36 7.61
2015/16 Christian Fuchs 29 Germany 7.30 7.50
2015/16 Robert Huth 31 England 7.05 7.15
2015/16 Shinji Okazaki 29 Germany 7.04 6.50
2015/16 Demarai Gray 19 England 2nd 6.86 6.54
2015/16 Gokhan Inler 31 Italy 6.80 6.47
2015/16 Yohan Benalouane 28 Italy 6.78 6.75

This is the window that everyone remembers and with good reason. We brought in 4 of the 8 “star” players in one window. It’s kind of a cheat to list Huth, who came in on loan in January 2015, but his deal wasn’t finalised until the summer. Kante and Fuchs may not have been well-known, but they were among the best players in Europe at their positions when we brought them in and they didn’t miss a beat at the King Power. Only Okazaki failed to retain his star status, but this was largely due to his being a starter who played only 60 minutes of every match.

Transfers 2016/17

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2016/17 Islam Slimani 28 France 6.97 6.69
2016/17 Luis Hernandez 27 Spain 6.82 6.37
2016/17 Nampalys Mendy 24 France 6.27 6.37

As mentioned above, one of the most exciting (but ultimately disappointing) signings of this window had to be omitted because WhoScored didn’t have ratings for the Russian leagues at this time. Mendy is the key player here; he was brought in to replace Kante and even though they are similar in age, stature, and league of origin, Mendy had never played anywhere near as well as Kante and never would.

The Foxes brought in two stars during the 2017/18 window, Maguire and Silva. Maguire played almost exactly as well for City as he had for Hull the year before, but Silva dropped off more than any other player considered in this article. I think the reasons for this are obvious: His transfer was utterly botched and he was unable to participate in any football activities for six months. After that, he struggled with injuries. Would he have been a star at Leicester? He’s the one I’m most skeptical of as the Portuguese leagues are not among the best in Europe and he was already approaching his decline phase.

Iborra was regarded as something of a disappointment, but he was actually pretty solid and certainly within the range we should have expected. As was the case at Manchester City, Iheanacho’s numbers at Leicester suffer due to his frequent use as a substitute.

Transfers 2018/19

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2018/19 Ricardo Pereira 25 Portugal 7.59 7.34
2018/19 James Maddison 22 England 2nd 7.43 7.20
2018/19 Jonny Evans 30 England 6.78 6.88
2018/19 Rachid Ghezzal 26 France 6.58 6.43
2018/19 Caglar Soyuncu 22 Germany 6.58 6.74

Two more stars came in during this window in the persons of Ricardo and Madders. I get the sense that the memory of Ricardo at his peak is fading, and that’s a shame. He was legitimately one of the best right-backs in the world until Jack Grealish took his knee.

Ghezzal was exactly what we should have expected from him; a marginal player who might add value off the bench but in no way should be considered for a starting role. Cags has actually done very well at Leicester and it’s utterly baffling that he can’t get a game anymore.

Transfers 2019/20

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2019/20 Dennis Praet 25 Italy 6.99 6.41
2019/20 Ayoze Perez 26 England 6.95 6.77
2019/20 Youri Tielemans 22 France 6.94 7.14

A disappointing window was rescued by picking up an underrated (but not underpriced) Tielemans from Monaco. Ayoze’s better than he’s shown, but he’s almost always deployed out of position and Praet seldom starts.

Transfers 2020/21

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2020/21 Cengiz Under 23 Italy 6.87 6.47
2020/21 Wesley Fofana 20 France 6.80 7.01
2020/21 Timothy Castagne 25 Italy 6.72 6.70

Fofana had future star written all over him, but it was a little surprising that he was so good so young for Leicester, so kudos to the scouting team for paying what seemed a huge fee for a player with so little experience.

Under almost never started in the league, but quite good in Europe. I’d rate him as “the closest we’ve come to replacing Mahrez,” but that bar is so low it hardly counts as praise. Castagne is exactly what he always was at Atalanta: A solid right back who gets forward and defends reasonably well, but he’s no Ricardo.

Transfers 2021/22

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2021/22 Ademola Lookman 24 England 6.92 6.63
2021/22 Jannik Vestergaard 29 England 6.89 6.44
2021/22 Boubakary Soumare 22 France 6.76 6.41
2021/22 Ryan Bertrand 32 England 6.41 6.10

Daka may eventually redeem this class, but there were no stars in it and even the good players underperformed for the Foxes. Lookman performed quite well once we stopped trying to shoehorn him into being a right-winger. Vestergaard was a panic buy and, while he’s a decent defender, he’s not a decent defender playing in Rodgers’ system.

Soumare still has a chance to improve, and he’s shown signs of it this year, but there was nothing to suggest “future star” about him in France and “above-average starter” might be his ceilings. Ryan Bertrand hasn’t had a good campaign since 2014, so let’s just leave it at that.

Transfers 2022/23

Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
Year Player Age League Pre-LCFC Rating LCFC Rating
2022/23 Wout Faes 24 France 6.76 6.99

Faes has played well for the Foxes and there’s a non-zero chance he’ll develop into a star defender. The biggest concern with him is that his enthusiasm to be everywhere at once makes him mistake-prone and, one hopes, time will mellow this tendency.


To put it bluntly, the issue we’ve had with our transfers is that we’re not buying players who are as good as the ones we used to buy. That may seem obvious in hindsight, but if paid attention to the numbers on WhoScored, you would have seen this as it was happening.

  • Leicester City have purchased 8 players who I would classify as stars for the Foxes: Kante, Fuchs, Huth, Maddison, Ricardo, Maguire, Tielemans, and Fofana. I suspect that most people would largely agree with this list.
  • Of those 8, 6 were stars before they came to Leicester City.
  • 6 of the 8 players who were stars before we signed them were stars for the Foxes.
  • Only 2 of the 22 players who weren’t stars prior to joining City became stars.
  • We have not brought in a player who was already a star since 2018/19.
  • Most of the players we have brought in have seen a slight decline in their rating in the first year with Leicester. I suspect this is because of having to adjust to a new and likely better league than they were in.
  • The WhoScored ratings, however they arrive at them, are a reasonably good indicator of how a player will fare.

What Does This Mean For The January Window?

I’m concerned. Here are the players we’re most strongly linked with:

Jeremie Boga

We’ve already discussed Boga in our piece on right-wingers, but one thing we didn’t mention was his rating. He’s a difficult player to rate because he doesn’t get very much time on the pitch. He’s only played 73 minutes for Atalanta as he’s lost his starting job to Ademola Lookman. In 2020/21, he average a 6.59 rating but was frequently used as a substitute. When he actually plays, he’s usually in the 6.80 range, but it’s concerning when a player is 25 years old and losing playing time each year.

Azzedine Ounahi

Ounahi is an all-action midfielder who impressed for Morocco in the World Cup. He has a 6.72 rating for Angers in Ligue Un, but in his breakout performance in Qatar, he tallied a 6.74 for his country. That suggests strongly that this is his current level of ability, doesn’t it? He’s very hard to dispossess and he handles his defensive duties well, so if you squint, he looks a perfect replacement for Tielemans. At only 22 years old, he will likely improve but you do have to wonder if Morocco’s run at the World Cup is what is driving both the interest and the price tag when a player like Enzo Le Fee could probably be had for less.

My hope is that, should we purchase these two players, that they’re fantastic for the Foxes and that the ratings were misleading or even wrong. Ounahi, in particular, looks a fine player when I watch him and nothing would make me happier than seeing him succeed here. However, if I were working for Leicester City and making recommendations, I’d have to say to approach both Ounahi and Bog with caution.