Skip to content

Leicester transfers: Owners investing in infrastructure to close the gap on the 'big six' in the long term

Leicester are yet to make a signing in this summer's transfer window, while key players such as Wesley Fofana and James Maddison are targets for other clubs; Foxes' owners are instead investing in training ground and stadium for long-term progress

Image: Brendan Rodgers is yet to add to his Leicester squad this summer

Leicester City remain the only Premier League club yet to sign a new player in this transfer window.

Even more worrying for supporters is the fact that some of their biggest stars - Wesley Fofana, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes - are being targeted by some of the richest clubs in the Premier League.

So what's the problem? Is the club in financial trouble? Have Leicester lost their ambition? Are they now a selling club?

The answer to all of those questions is 'no'. It's all part of an unwavering plan which, whilst unpalatable to many Leicester fans, is consistent with their long-term strategy.

Let's deal first with the possible 'outgoings'. Leicester fans are understandably mortified at the prospect of losing one (or more) of the jewels in their crown - especially with no signs of new blood coming in.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 2-2 draw between Leicester and Brentford in the Premier League.

They've already lost a favourite in Kasper Schmeichel, remember, with no prospect of a like-for-like replacement.

But so far, Schmeichel aside (who was given special dispensation because of his outstanding service to the club) the owners have rejected every bid that's come in for one of their best players. Chelsea's second bid for Fofana was more than double the one that Leicester paid St Etienne for him less than two years ago.

Also See:

To sell now would sound like sensible business, no? Double your money in just over 18 months? Not if, like Leicester, you believe Fofana's value will grow still further after another season or two in the Premier League.

That's why they're very reluctant to sell now - unless Chelsea really are prepared to go big (and possibly eclipse the world record fee that Manchester United paid Leicester for Harry Maguire).

Leicester's approach might be more difficult to sustain if Fofana himself is desperate to leave. His cryptic Instagram message, saying he will annoy a lot of people if he does "what's best for him" has been interpreted as him favouring a move to Stamford Bridge.

But my understanding is that, whilst ambitious, he is happy at Leicester - hence him signing a contract extension just five months ago. And it's hard to see a player of Fofana's character going on strike, or agitating for a move like Riyad Mahrez did in 2018.

Wesley Fofana celebrates after scoring for Leicester against Rennes
Image: Wesley Fofana is a transfer target for Chelsea

Leicester's success in recent years has been in selling one of their best players for top dollar and re-investing that money wisely. Look at the departures of Mahrez, N'Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, and Maguire.

If they are to sell any of their superstars now, it will only be if the buying club is prepared to pay a premium. Whilst the pandemic hit King Power very hard as an international duty-free business, Leicester City is not in any financial trouble.

So no player will be sold on the cheap. And to that end, I've been told that privately, Leicester's bosses have found Newcastle's offers for Maddison verging on the offensive.

Furthermore, the price of each of those stars is rising by the day: a buying club will have to pay more for Youri Tielemans in the final week of the window compared with now because Leicester would then have little time to re-invest that money in a replacement.

Another key point to make is one of brutal reality: Leicester cannot compete, financially, with the 'Big 6'. Right now, no one (not even Liverpool, probably) can compete with Manchester City and Chelsea, in terms of financial clout.

Leicester have a plan to start to address that - but it will take years. Decades maybe.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers praises his team's first half performance in their 2-2 draw against Brentford, adding that it was a game they should have won.

At a cost of £100m, they built a quite brilliant new training ground which opened at Christmas and which, many feel, is as good as any other club facility in world football.

That was money which could have been spent on the squad. But Leicester's bosses felt it was more important to build something more lasting. Something which will help attract world-class signings in the future and help further develop the home-grown talent which has served Leicester so well already (see Barnes, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Luke Thomas, for examples).

Almost exactly a year ago, they unveiled plans to build a new 220-room hotel, an events and entertainment venue, and plans to expand King Power Stadium by 8,000 seats to a total of 40,000.

Ambitious stuff. But - and here's the rub - when finished, the stadium will still be only just over half the size of Old Trafford.

At the time, in August 2021, the club's announcement read: "To continue competing in the Premier League…..requires a disciplined, sustainable and innovative business model…" And that statement perhaps best sums up Leicester's approach. To compete on the pitch with the best in the Premier League, you have to get closer to competing with them off the pitch.

Leicester's King Power Stadium
Image: Leicester's owners are investing in the club's King Power Stadium and training ground

So it's been a conscious plan to invest more of the club's finances right now in the club's infrastructure, rather than the first team. Tottenham did similar - and were similarly criticised - when they built their mesmeric Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

But this isn't the only reason Leicester have been so quiet in this summer's transfer market. There is money for Brendan Rodgers to strengthen the squad, besides all the investment in buildings. But before any of that money is spent on new players, there is a determination that the squad must be trimmed.

Leicester's best team is very strong, as evidenced by the line-up Rodgers picked for the season opener against Brentford on Sunday, even without the injured Barnes and Ricardo. But they don't have the depth of quality throughout the wider squad that the 'Big 6' enjoy.

And yet, Leicester have a lot of 'senior pros' on big money who aren't part of Rodgers' plans going forward. Look at the likes of Caglar Soyuncu, Ryan Bertrand, Jannik Vestergaard, Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet and Hamza Choudhury - three of whom weren't even in the matchday squad on Sunday, and watched from the stands.

Ricardo Pereira is set to be out injured for six months
Image: Ricardo Pereira is out with another long-term injury

It's tough to keep those players happy, if they're not playing. And unhappy players can affect the unity and positivity of an entire squad - characteristics that have served Leicester so well in winning the Premier League six years ago and the FA Cup in 2021.

And remember, Leicester don't have European football this season when some of those 'squad' players could get a runout.

The strategy is very clearly to get as many of those 'unwanted' players off the wage bill as possible, as soon as possible, before thinking of replacing them with new faces.

Searching for good value improvements

Another problem is that Leicester only want to buy players who are as good, if not better, than players in their starting 11. And they're both difficult to find and expensive.

More than that, players of the sort of quality Leicester are interested in will want guaranteed football. Who's prepared to sit on the bench at the King Power Stadium, when you could be on more money, sitting on the bench at the Emirates, or St James' Park?

Add to this, the fact that Leicester had so many injuries last season. Vardy, Fofana, Wilfred Ndidi, Jonny Evans, Ricardo, James Justin, Timothy Castagne, Barnes, Maddison, and Soyuncu all had lengthy spells on the sidelines. This meant that players who might have been sold sooner, are still on the books.

Quite simply, Leicester needed the numbers last season. They don't this season.

Patience key

So to sum up: Leicester's bosses hope the supporters can remain patient. That the manager - hugely ambitious and coveted as he is - can remain patient too, and still buy into 'the Leicester way'. Rodgers, of course, would like to have more funds for players. But he understands and respects the Leicester model.

There's little doubt that - whilst Leicester's squad has stood still - the clubs they're competing with in the top half of the Premier League have progressed and strengthened.

James Maddison is another Leicester player attracting interest from other clubs
Image: James Maddison is another Leicester player attracting interest from other clubs

The fans' fears are predictable and totally understandable. And an opening day home draw against Brentford did little to boost the expectations.

But it's a stark fact that, with the spending of the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs - and almost certainly Manchester United too by the end of the window - Leicester could spend £150m this summer and still be no more likely than they are now to break the top six.

It's a tough sell to explain that to Leicester's fee-paying public, who understandably want to see their squad getting stronger every year, with exciting, quality (expensive) new additions.

Leicester's bosses have to hope that the supporters understand and trust them that the clever management and strategy that has got Leicester to where they are will stand them in good stead for the future too.

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer when the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

The new Premier League season with Sky Sports

  • 128 exclusively live Premier League matches.
  • First pick of matches for every weekend of the Premier League season.
  • The best punditry team in football including Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Micah Richards and Roy Keane.
  • Kelly Cates and David Jones will present our live coverage across Friday Night Football, Saturday Night Football, Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.
  • In-game goals and clips for mobile devices from Sky Sports live matches.
  • Extended highlights On Demand and our Premier League channel.
  • Sky Sports is your ultimate destination for domestic football with live coverage of the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and the Women's Super League.
  • Find out more about Sky Sports
WIN £1,000,000 WITH SUPER 6!

WIN £1,000,000 WITH SUPER 6!

Super 6 is back, bigger and better than ever with a ONE MILLION POUND jackpot. Play for free.

Around Sky