#360view: Crafty Foxes transfers approach paying dividends

It was a substitution that encapsulated how far Leicester have come, perhaps more so than the 2-1 advantage they held over Chelsea.

James Piercy
by James Piercy
16th December 2015

article:16th December 2015

All smiles: Claudio Ranieri.
All smiles: Claudio Ranieri.

It was a substitution that encapsulated how far Leicester have come, perhaps more so than the 2-1 advantage they held over Chelsea.

With 82 minutes gone, Claudio Ranieri introduced Gokhan Inler to firm up his midfield as the Blues pushed for an equaliser.

That’s Swiss international captain Inler, who, up to his move to the King Power Stadium, had been one of the best and most consistent defensive midfielders in Serie A for at least the last five years.

– Arabian Gulf Cup: Al Wahda march into semi-finals
– Valora: Wing wizards Bolasie and Mahrez dominate
– MESSI: Barca school of 2015 better than Guardiola’s side

Ultimately, the increased financial strength of the Premier League – giving Leicester, who had Esteban Cambiasso last season, the resources to afford individuals like Inler – is levelling the playing field.

But, that said, the Foxes ascent to the summit of the English top-flight, 12 months after being at its foot, goes beyond more than just the act of spending money.

It’s an easy comparison to make but of the two starting 11s on Monday night, Leicester’s cost £20.3 million (Dh111.2m) to Chelsea’s £192.8m (Dh1bn).

On the field, and making significant impacts, were Riyad Mahrez who was signed from French second division club Le Havre, Jamie Vardy, whose backstory in non-league football is well known and N’Golo Kante who had just one season of top-flight experience in France with Caen before moving to Leicester.

Aside from this trio: Christian Fuchs (who’s been outstanding) was discarded by Schalke, while Danny Drinkwater, Kasper Schmeichel and Marc Albrighton have all been deemed not good enough by various Premier League clubs.

Without wanting to take too much away from manager Claudio Ranieri, the club’s enterprising approach in the transfer market has been as impressive as their performances on the pitch.

In an interview with SkySports.com last September, head of technical scouting Rob McKenzie (now of Tottenham) revealed the methods Leicester went through in signing Mahrez. Knowing they have to fly under the radar with their targets, McKenzie concentrated on the French second tier, despite its comparative lack of quality.

Why? Apart, from the fact few top-flight clubs are doing so, but mainly because there have been several examples of outstanding individuals within the division being able to transfer their skills to higher leagues quickly – Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Geoffrey Kondogbia being three notables. Mahrez can now join that list.

Signed for £750,000 (Dh4.2m), he’s worth comfortably more than £20m (Dh111m) if anyone comes calling in January. Ditto Vardy and perhaps Kante, should his spectacular rise continue. All acquired through a combination of data-driven analysis and smart scouting.

It’s telling Leicester also play with a free-flowing, offensive style, the rest of the Premier League looks at with envy. Particularly at Old Trafford, where Louis van Gaal sucks the enjoyment out of the stadium with each passing game.

As United throw tens of millions at targets they seem to make up on the spot and, so far with diminishing returns, Leicester are showing them and others who lavishly spend without due diligence, the way both on and off the field.