Leicester are in a relegation quagmire – their transfer policy had to change
Remember the name Fousseni Diabaté? He was a winger who came and quickly disappeared at Leicester City but until last month he was a significant signing in the club’s recent history.
It was over five years ago when Diabate, a Mali international, became the last permanent recruit made by Leicester in a January transfer window.
Leicester’s rigid stance since 2018 has been a refusal to pay transfer fees in the winter, preferring to focus their attention on the summer when prices are more realistic and player availability is higher.
That strategy has now been dropped, for this season at least, after Leicester moved to spend around £35 million on three new signings.
Victor Kristiansen, Harry Souttar and Tete all arrived last month as Brendan Rodgers was finally able to carry out some of the squad “refresh” he has been seeking.
Leeds winger Jack Harrison was another key target, with a £20m deal agreed before a late about turn on deadline day.
Harrison had completed part of his medical at Leicester’s training ground before being told at around 9.15pm to return to Leeds, leaving Rodgers frustrated.
If that move had been completed, the January spend would have been close to £60m. It is a dramatic shift in policy from owners King Power, yet utterly necessary as the club fights to avoid relegation.
Such a financial outlay can be viewed in two ways: either as further backing for Rodgers – who has retained the club’s full support despite a troubled campaign – or that reality over Leicester’s worrying position has struck home.
Both of those could apply but there is also one eye on the future with Leicester moving to recruit young, hungry and ambitious players with high potential to develop.
Breathing room with FFP
Their January business was also incomparable to the summer. Leicester did not spend any money until August 31, amid concerns over potential future punishment for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.
The sale of Wesley Fofana to Chelsea for £70 million allowed them some leeway on spending and it is that money which has gone towards their January buys.
Leicester’s plan was to move away from signing experienced players such as Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand, who have barely figured and have little resale value.
Kristiansen is 20 yet already has experience of playing in the Champions League and winning titles with FC Copenhagen. A modern defender who plays on the front foot, the left-back was spotted by Leicester’s new recruitment chief Martyn Glover and his scouting team.
Glover pushed for Kristiansen to be signed after being highly impressed by the Dane’s performances against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in Europe.
Tete is Leicester’s first Brazilian player and a winger who will provide excitement along with goals and assists. The 22-year-old was targeted by Glover in his previous role at Southampton and he has maintained contact with Tete’s representatives.
When it became clear that a deal could be struck with Lyon, who Tete joined on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, Leicester moved quickly. A loan fee of around £3m was paid.
Souttar, 24, stands at 6ft 6in and will provide the profile and height Rodgers has been targeting for his defence.
This move was rather unlike Leicester: they acted ruthlessly on the penultimate day of the window, paying the £15m asking price that Stoke wanted but leaving the Championship club surprised at the timing.
While Stoke are now clear of breaching Profitability & Sustainability (the EFL’s FFP) rules, the money will still be a huge boost for their finances. Stoke had also assured Souttar after his impressive performances at the World Cup with Australia that he could leave if a Premier League club agreed to pay the fee.
Rodgers spoke with Michael O’Neill, the former Stoke manager, and Australia’s assistant coach Rene Meulensteen and received glowing recommendations from both.
Though Souttar has been struggling with a recent hip injury, the new trio could feature against Aston Villa this weekend.
Rodgers said: “It’s been a long time since the club signed players in January but there was definitely a need for it.
“We’ve got a number of players out of contract in the summer in key positions, particularly at centre-half, so it is an exciting time. We’ve had a really good window and while I would have liked to do more business, I’m confident we have the squad that we would want.”