With just over two thirds of the Premier League season already completed, the fate of the twenty clubs is becoming ever clearer: dreams of European football for some, and fears of Championship football for others. Leicester City currently prop up the table, and are four points adrift of safety. This is admittedly not a lot, especially when the teams ranked 13th to 19th are separated by only five points, but nonetheless, three teams will experience the ignominy of relegation in May. The bookmakers do not believe much will change between now and the seasons end as the Foxes are favourites for relegation. However this is not an excuse for despair and misery to take over the city of Leicester, rather a mature look to the future. If Leicester do face the dreaded drop, will it be the end of the world?
Well publicized is the so called “parachute payment” money which all relegated clubs receive. Last season the relegated trio of Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City received £62.8 million each, over four years. Plans are in place to alter this payment to take place over three years, but the figure will remain the same. This scheme is designed to help relegated clubs cope with Premier League wages on Championship revenue. Leicester signed no less than ten players since their promotion to the top flight in May 2014, but we can assume only a portion of them will be the recipients of large, first division wages (the likes of Cambiasso, Upson and Albrighton).
If these players were to stay on in the East Midlands with Championship football on offer, then the parachute payments would fulfill their intended role, and essentially bail out LCFC. However, given the revolving door nature of football, it is perfectly plausible Cambiasso and co. may leave for other pastures green. In this case the pay check of over £60 million could be spent strengthening the club for another promotion challenge.
Continuing this hypothetical thought train, if Leicester were to use this money to improve and really challenge for the Championship title (something that Nigel Pearson’s side romped to last season by nine points) then would this be favourable to the Foxes’ faithful as opposed to this season? There would be no Diego Costa or Angel Di Maria visiting the King Power stadium, but the Blue Army could turn up in force every Saturday and realistically expect a win. Just last year Leicester secured 102 points, and won 31 out of 46 games. At their current rate, it would take over 71 games to reach this tally again. Those who jumped on the Premier League band wagon would fall off (and perhaps return to the city’s rugby rivals at Welford Road), as Liverpool and Arsenal become a thing of the past, but the loyal season ticket holders would reap the benefits of a successful football club.
This talk of an immediate return to the top flight is not unfounded. West Bromwich Albion have been dubbed a “yo-yo” club as between 2002 and 2010 the Baggies ‘boing boinged’ up to the Premier League four times, and went back down on three occasions! Leicester themselves have previous yo-yoing experience – after relegation in 1995 and 2002 they returned to the promised land within a season.
Of course, the nature of sport the way it is, these things can rarely be predicted accurately. The standard of football in the Championship is higher than is often credited, and the Foxes will need to do more than just turn up to secure victories. There are a number of clubs who have not bounced back in the short or even long term. Only six of the current twenty four Championship sides do not have Premier League (since 1992) experience, and some have languished in the second tier for over a decade – such as Ipswich Town.
In reality planning for relegation as part of a larger strategy is unlikely, although, the acceptance of the possibility of it and having a plan B in place is certainly not. Those in charge at the club, and the fans alike, will want to retain Premier League status at all costs. That is not to say that if the club does go down, it will not return again, with a season or two of relative success behind it. For Leicester, or any other side that may fall through the trap door, it should not be deemed as life or death, or sink or swim. In fact, with cleverly invested money, another crack at the Premier League could be a stroke of cunning from the Foxes.
Forgotten Leicester City man Yohan Benalouane will hope to keep England at bay this evening
The 31-year-old Leicester defender will hope to start for Tunisia.
England take on Tunisia this evening in their opening World Cup fixture. Whilst not many names on The Eagles of Carthage team-sheet will ring a bell there are some familiar faces. Sunderland fans will know all too well the talents of attacker Wahbi Khazri, who still remains a Black Cat.
Leicester City fans will, however, be forgiven for forgetting that one of the Tunisia players is still at the King Power. Yohan Benalouane will be hoping to make just his fifth appearance for the Tunisia national team against England this evening.
Born in France the 31-year-old had been called up by Tunisia two times previously. However, his form at Parma and Atalanta saw him on the cusp of a French call-up and he always turned down the nation of his heritage. Until March, when he finally decided to accept the call and become a Tunisian international.
Now he is fighting for his place in the starting XI, something he is used to with Leicester.
Signed from Atalanta in a deal rumoured to be worth £5.6 million he arrived on the same day as N’Golo Kante. Whilst the latter went on to help Leicester claim the title, the Tunisian has had a far less impressive run with the Foxes.
He barely featured in Leicester’s title-winning campaign, spending an unsuccessful spell on loan at Fiorentina in the second half of the campaign. His game time was so minimal he did not receive a winner’s medal.
The following season he was initially not given a squad number but he was brought in from the cold by new manager Craig Shakespeare.
But this season has again been a struggle for Benalouane. He played just one game in the Premier League last season, a 2-0 loss against West Ham in May.
Tonight his place in the starting XI, much like his Foxes team-mates and England stars Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy, is up for debate. But he will be chomping at the bit to keep England quiet and prove a point to his parent club Leicester ahead of another season at the King Power.
Tottenham should move for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez in quest for creative forward
The Leicester City maestro could become a world beater at Tottenham.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is undoubtedly looking to bolster his attacking options this term, and a number of stellar names have been linked with moves to north London. But so far nothing has gathered any real traction on that front.
A brief spell of hope in the pursuit of priority target Anthony Martial materialised yesterday, as his agent revealed the player’s desire to leave Manchester United, in quotes via RMC Sport. But, United sharply asserted that the player remains in their plans next season, just hours later, in reports from Sky Sports. And Pochettino will have reevaluate his targets once more.
One name the club has yet to be linked with is Leicester City‘s Riyad Mahrez. And that comes as something of a surprise, when considering the criteria Pochettino is looking for.
The Argentine coach is looking to improve the supply line to 41 goal striker Harry Kane, and few if any, are as creative as Mahrez in the final third in England. The former Premier League Player of the Year is able to play across all front-three roles, and is equally effective in all of them – amassing an impressive 13 goals and 13 assists in 41 appearances this term.
Mahrez is clearly looking to engineer a move away from the King Power Stadium, following his 10-day absence in January, after the club blocked the Algerian’s move to champions Manchester City (Sky Sports), and Tottenham should now join the running for his signature.
There are obvious concerns over the player’s valuation, with the Foxes turning down seriously lucrative bids of £60 million from Pep Guardiola in January, but Leicester are likely to concede for less now, as the player fulfilled his duty to the club – and they have time to bring in replacements, unlike transfer deadline day.
Daniel Levy will have to accept that a quality attacking addition capable of propelling Spurs to silverware will cost a serious fee, and it’s simply a sign of the times if he doesn’t want to fall behind rivals in the quest for the highest honours.
Blow for Newcastle as Leicester bid big on midfielder Stefano Sturaro
Leicester City have reportedly made an official approach for the Newcastle target.
Newcastle United have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of Juventus midfielder Stefano Sturaro, as Leicester City have sent a lucrative offer to Turin for his signature, according to Sky Sports Italia.
Juventus value the player at around £18 million, but the Foxes have fallen short with their initial offer of £11 million, in an attempt to compromise.
Newcastle will hope the Serie A champions reject the offer, as they have been courting Sturaro closely over the last month, having reportedly made an enquiry for his services, according to Calcio Mercato.
Mikel Merino has been consistently linked with a move away from St James’ Park this summer, despite revealing his desire to build on last season in the Premier League (Newcastle official). And Athletic Bilbao are the latest to show interest in bringing the Spaniard back to his native home.
As a result Rafa Benitez is lining up potential replacements, and the Italian international is high on the wish-list.
Since moving to Juve from Genoa in 2014, the Italian midfielder has won Serie A four times, the Coppa Italia four times, the Supercoppa Italiana once and reached the final of the Champions League twice.
But these achievements are marred by Sturaro’s minor role in the current side. The 25-year-old made just 12 appearances – with seven starts – in the Serie A last season, as Max Allegri led the side to a record-breaking seventh straight Scudetto.
Playing time will register high on the list of priorities for the midfielder next term and Newcastle would certainly offer him that, with the likes of Mohamed Diame past his best years at 31, and nearing his natural end on Tyneside. Although Leicester can offer the same.
Benitez will now have to take the initiative and match Leicester’s bid for the Italian, if they have serious hopes of landing him this summer.
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