Leicester City didn’t allow the disappointment of missing out on a top four finish to linger for long. Having been in the Champions League places for the majority of the season, Brendan Rodgers’ side missed out on qualification on the final day of the campaign, losing at home to Manchester United to finish fifth.
A lesser manager would have allowed this crushing disappointment to seep into the mentality of his players, but Rodgers used the short break over the summer to recalibrate his team. Eight games into the 2020/21 campaign, Leicester aren’t just sitting in the top four. They’re at the top of the table, with many pondering whether a genuine title challenge could be on the cards.
Key to their renewal was the signing of Wesley Fofana. Leicester City’s track record in the transfer market was already proven, with the King Power Stadium club making a habit of unearthing diamonds from around Europe, but even by such a high standard their new new French defender has sparkled in the Premier League.
Favoured on the right side of a back three, Fofana instantly settled into his new surroundings. He has been assured in the games he has played, recently helping Leicester City to clean sheets in wins against Arsenal and Wolves. He is the complete central defender – physically imposing, composed, good on the ball, strong in the air. Comparisons have been drawn with Virgil van Dijk
“We knew he was a top player for someone so young and when we spoke to people out there and seeing all the clips, you could see he has anticipation as a defender. He has speed, he has aggression, he defends forward, so all the attributes we like here,” said Rodgers when asked to give his assessment of Fofana.
“I think the surprising thing is that if you look at the seven games he’s played and the level of the teams we’ve played and the consistent run of games, how he’s coped with that. He’s absolutely colossal for a young guy.”
It should be noted Leicester City spent big to sign the 19-year-old. Indeed, the Foxes had to pay £32 million to prise Fofana from Saint-Etienne’s grips. The young defender had been linked with a number of top level clubs around Europe and so if Leicester City hadn’t moved, someone else would have.
The Foxes have been known to spend big in recent years, but compare their success rate in the transfer market to that of some of their more illustrious Premier League rivals. When Leicester City put money on the table, it’s almost always for a player they know will flourish into an important first team figure.
£40 million was spent on Youri Tielemens. £17 million on Dennis Praet. £22.5 million on James Maddison. £20 million on Ricardo Pereira. £19 million on Caglar Soyuncu. Every single one of these players improved Leicester City’s first team, pushing them to come within one result of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League last season.
Fofana, however, is the sort of player who could take Leicester City to an entirely new level. The impact he has made at the King Power Stadium has been profound, giving the Foxes presence and balance at the back. Fofana has arguably been the standout defender in the Premier League so far this season
Of course, it’s always likely Leicester City will be seen as a stepping stone club. It’s possible this is what they sell themselves as to prospective signings, including Fofana. If the Foxes collected a fee of £80 million for Harry Maguire, it’s frightening to think what they could eventually command for the French teenager.
But before the time comes to cash in, Leicester City can achieve a lot with Fofana in their team. He has been the signing of the summer in the Premier League this season and could potentially go down as one of the most significant signings in the recent history of his new club. Forget the top four, Leicester are aiming higher now.
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