The Foxes have finished in the bottom three just seven years after defying 5000-1 odds to win the title
As the half-time whistle sounded at Craven Cottage on May 8, a cacophony of boos rang out from the away end. Leicester’s travelling support had just watched their team gift Fulham three goals, while scarcely venturing into the opposing penalty area themselves. This was supposed to be the turning point in a dire season. Instead, it was the moment when the campaign slipped away – with relegation finally confirmed on Sunday.
Seven years earlier, those same supporters were packed inside the King Power Stadium, waiting for Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of Nessun Dorma – the perfect prelude to them getting their hands on the Premier League trophy. More recently than that, these fans had also been treated to a Champions League quarter-final, regular Europa League matches and an FA Cup final triumph at Wembley.
Now, Leicester are set to swap night outs at the Wanda Metropolitano for a brief layover at Taunton Dean services en route to Plymouth Argyle. Their downfall has been spectacular, and although expectations were not sky-high heading into the current campaign – with the long-promised summer rebuild failing to materialise – no one was expecting them to be dropping into the second tier. How has it come to this?
- Recruitment woesLeicester’s modern-day success was built on having the best recruitment record in Europe. Their most recognisable title-winning XI cost just under £30 million. That’s astounding value for money considering it contained the likes of N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.The mastermind of this success was revered scout Steve Walsh, and there were fears that the Foxes would not be able to replicate this smart transfer policy when he left for Everton in 2016. However, even without Walsh at the helm, Leicester continued to make inspired signings. Harry Maguire was flipped for a near £70m profit in 2018, while the likes of Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira were all purchased for well under their market value.More recently though, it is harder to identify a single transfer success. The 2021 summer window was a particular disaster. Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Jan Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand were among the players who arrived, and every single one has been an abject failure.Their business this season has been equally poor. The arrivals of Wout Faes and Harry Souttar in the summer and winter windows respectively has done little to tighten up their porous defence. Meanwhile, young full-back Victor Kristiansen looks a million miles away from being Premier League ready, and the inconsistent Tete has only sparingly showed flashed of quality.In the most competitive division in the world, you are only ever a few poor transfer windows away from sliding down the table, and this is exactly what has happened to Leicester.
- Getty ImagesFinancial problemsThis recruitment farce has played out amid a backdrop of financial strife at the King Power Stadium. The reasons for their reduced spending power are numerous. For starters, they are owned by a Thailand-based duty free company, which understandably endured a challenging period when airports were closed during the pandemic.There’s also the natural inflation of their playing budget. The longer you stay in the Premier League, the harder it is to avoid handing out inflated contracts, and back-to-back fifth-placed finishes meant the squad wanted to be rewarded for their success.Nothing has had a bigger financial toll than the club’s state-of-the-art training facility, though. Reported to have set Leicester back to the tune of £100m, the club spared no expense for their new home, even including a golf course.These factors resulted in the Foxes announcing a record £92.5m financial loss in March. Although that figure did not include Wesley Fofana’s £75m transfer fee, it does still help us understand why Leicester signed just two players in the summer, despite the club long promising supporters a major revamp of the squad.