First two games prove Iheanacho, not Vardy, makes Leicester tick

First two games prove Iheanacho, not Vardy, makes Leicester tick
Credit: Icon Sport

When Nigeria Super Eagles star Kelechi Iheanacho stormed onto the international scene at the Under-17 World Cup in 2013, the former Taye Academy star earned himself the Golden Ball and CAF Most Promising Talent, with several teams scrambling for his signature.

Several years down the line, the dream of Iheanacho leading the attack for some of the top teams in the world. Many believe starting his career with Manchester City was not the best option for him, or perhaps an Eaglet trying to fly too early was his undoing.

Kelechi Iheanacho against former club Manchester City
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Iheanacho is still making the headlines, but as a Super Eagle, the wings feel aged, even for a 26-year-old. Iheanacho now stars for Leicester City, where he has had limited playing opportunities. The Foxes are in the Championship, and despite the ageing legs of Jamie Vardy, he is still down in the pecking order. Perhaps Leicester City are making a mistake by playing Vardy ahead of the Super Eagles star.

Why Iheanacho is more vital than Vardy for Leicester

Kelechi Iheanacho with Leicester City
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Iheanacho has a different playing style to Jamie Vardy, with the Nigerian star underappreciated and undervalued. Vardy has always been the preferred choice to start in attack for Leicester, with his style of play determining how the team plays.

Vardy is a direct player who thrives in a counter-attacking setup, while Iheanacho, who does not have pace like Vardy, has the guile and trickery to upset defences. It explains why he has struggled for game time at Leicester.

The opening two games of the season have shown that the qualities of Iheanacho are best suited for Leicester going forward. In the Championship, teams rarely afford you time and space to operate, which makes Vardy a bit redundant.

In their first game of the season, Jamie Vardy led the attack for the Foxes, and the team struggled, falling behind to an early Coventry goal. Iheanacho had about a quarter of an hour to change the game, and he did that. He ensured the defenders were well occupied, creating space for Drewsbury Hall to get the two goals that saw the Foxes nicking the three points.

Against League One side Burton Albion, Iheanacho led the attack, and his brilliance settled the game in the first half. He scored a stunning backheel to put Leicester ahead and created a sublime assist.

Ndidi also on the scoresheet

Super Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi scores for Leicester
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It was not all about Iheanacho. The former Manchester City striker created a sublime assist for Wilfred Ndidi in added time of the first half to seal the game.

Iheanacho meandered into the Burton box and gave a precise cut back to Ndidi, who was arriving to find the top corner of the goal.

There have been talks about Ndidi leaving the Foxes after the arrival of Cesare Casadei, but following his stellar performance against Burton, the manager Enzo Maresca will have a rethink. Ndidi has a calming effect on the Leicester midfield and can link defence and attack well.

Leicester would do well to keep him at the King Power stadium.

Will Iheanacho and Ndidi still be at Leicester?

Ndidi warms up for Leicester ahead of EFL Cup game
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Both players earn a healthy weekly wage at Leicester City. For a Championship side, Kelechi’s £80,000 and Ndidi’s £78,000 weekly wage could prove a headache. It would be unsurprising to see clubs weighing in for their services.

There are rumours of clubs seeking to sign both players. Iheanacho has a deal that expires next season, and the club would be looking for takers before he winds up his contract.

Iheanacho has attracted interest from England and beyond. Premier League sides Everton, Burnley, and Nottingham Forest are interested in his services, while Turkish side, Besiktas and AS Roma have also thrown their hats in the ring.

Saudi Arabian clubs are also looking to rival any offer.

Ndidi has also attracted interest from Nottingham Forest, Napoli and Saudi clubs

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter. Chooka has a passion for football and has been a fan of Enugu Rangers (over 30 years) and Real Madrid (Since 1996).