Why Kelechi Iheanacho Will Surprise Everyone This Season
Leicester City, following a miraculous 2015-16 Premier League triumph under ‘tinker man‘ Claudio Ranieri, had a season full of ups and downs in their title defence and managed a 12th placed league finish that became the worst ever title defence in Premier League history (worse than Chelsea’s 10th placed finish during 2015-16 season following their title triumph under Jose Mourinho in the campaign before that).
The Foxes had a disastrous league run under Ranieri and were fighting a relegation battle midway through last campaign. Although the Italian gaffer had a disappointing summer in terms of transfer business, a few of his senior stars reportedly rebelled, as well as expressed their loss of faith in Ranieri and their unprofessionalism, which resulted in a sack months after his historic Premier League triumph.
Assistant manager, Craig Shakespeare was promoted as their first team coach and the Foxes witnessed a surprise upsurge with consecutive league wins and also a successful run in their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign. They progressed through to the quarter final of the competition before being knocked out by La Liga giants Atletico Madrid despite delivering a lion-hearted display.
Leicester, however, are cautious over their transfers prior to the forthcoming season and brought in highly-rated Hull City defender Harry Maguire to strengthen their vulnerable back-line. Also, they have acquired Maguire’s ex-teammate Eldin Jakupovic, as the former Tigers custodian has joined the Foxes to replace departing Ron-Robert Zieler.
Veteran Spaniard Vicente Iborra has been transferred in from Spanish giants Sevilla to shape up the midfield. But the shrewd piece of business has been Nigerian striking sensation Kelechi Iheanacho who, despite impressing in limited opportunities, was frustrated at a star-studded Manchester City for lack of regular minutes, and opted to join the Foxes for £25m amidst strong interests from several Premier League counterparts.
Iheanacho, 20, appeared 35 times under former City boss Manuel Pellegrini during the 2015-16 season and netted 14 goals. He started as a second fiddle to Argentine hitman Sergio Aguero but impressed in his limited game-time with finishing skills, off the ball movements, dribbles and strong passing skills. Following an impressive debut campaign for the Citizens, Iheanacho earned his first senior call-up for the Nigerian national team and eventually became their main man up front. He has been capped 10 times by his country and has netted 6 goals this far.
But last summer’s high-profile appointment of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich gaffer Pep Guardiola saw his game-time being further limited, as he spent the majority of the season with reserves. He was mostly used as a late substitute by the new boss. The emergence of Gabriel Jesus sent him further down the pecking order and the young marksman was made available for transfer by his former suitors.
The new Leicester City forward has joined the list of Premier League legends Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Nicolas Anelka, Michael Owen and Romelu Lukaku to have scored 10 league goals before the age of 20. With the future of Islam Slimani and Leonardo Ulloa looking uncertain, Iheanacho has been a shrewd piece of business by Shakespeare and the youngster is poised to play a key role alongside hitman Jamie Vardy this season.