The 2015/16 English football season will forever be etched in history as the most remarkable and if you didn’t know it then you’ve been living under a rock. Leicester City came from relegation candidates to Premier League champions and it was all down to the team spirit built by manager Claudio Ranieri and his team of “journeymen”. That team did the unthinkable and won it all with the smallest budget for a championship winning side in over 20 years. The highest earners were on miniscule wages compared to the previous campaigns winners.
As the season closes and we gear up for a summer of international competition, the work for Ranieri and his staff continues at the King Power Stadium. With the club preparing to enter the coveted Champions League in September, the priority is to retain the squad and also improve it. The cash windfall from European competition is set to transform “The Foxes” entire status as a football club; however given that they are still clearly a smaller club in England, let alone Europe it will be extremely difficult to keep hold of that league winning side. Just this week, top-scorer Jamie Vardy’s release-clause was triggered by Arsenal and the striker now has a decision to make. He could join an established European side and therefore double his current wage, but does a player like Vardy really need to try and better himself? His unprecedented tally this year has notified bigger clubs and money talks in football. With Vardy’s focus being England for the European Championships, Leicester face a nervous wait to find out if their man will opt to remain with the champions. Any football fan apart from Arsenal supporters will be hoping Vardy stays, as if Leicester is to mount a serious challenge next year they need to keep the man that epitomises their journey to glory.
Vardy is not the only asset that Ranieri would be hoping to retain next season. Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez is also being linked with virtually every top club out there and if his contract includes a small release-clause then he may very well have played his last game for the Champions. Like Vardy, this squad contains players that were “never meant” to win a Premier League title. The “wheeling and dealing” like approach that Ranieri took this season has worked wonders, but the bigger clubs like Manchester United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea will all be gunning for Leicester this forthcoming campaign and there are strong doubts about whether they can compete with these clubs.
So why stay at Leicester and how can the club attract players capable of going another round in the Premier League? Well the club are guaranteed a top seed in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. That, for almost all top players, is what can attract them to a club. Testing themselves against the best on the continent will not faze “The Foxes” and if they can bring that team sprit out once again then who knows what can happen. Almost all of their squad has no previous experience of playing European competiton at a competitive level and given the small stature of the club, nobody will realistically expect much from them. Time will tell if this fairytale is just a one season wonder, but with the right spirit and attitude, as well as a helping hand from the owners, this fairytale CAN live on for another season.
By Matt Findlay