Martin Samuel: Leicester is exactly what the Premier League’s Big Six are so afraid of


Youri Tielemans could have signed for Manchester United in 2019. The club had a meeting with its agent, Peter Smeets, but had other matters to conclude and got stuck. In any case, Tielemans had an alternative option.

A club that had won the league more recently than United and also asked for the £ 40 million that Monaco could afford.

That club was Leicester. That’s why six big clubs are so afraid of those who are chasing them. All the cartel does is not only increase its own margins, but also limit those of the challengers. The doomed Project Big Picture initially looked generous with additional funding for the EFL below. But in reality, the richest would be offset by additional European games, and the rest would be cut a lot.

Leicester sealed the FA Cup with a victory over Chelsea thanks to Youri Tielemans’ miracle strike

It was those around them, clubs like Leicester, who would get a percentage of their assets given away without any compensation. And that would directly affect their ability to acquire a player like Tielemans who won a trophy on Saturday that five clubs would automatically see as theirs.

Since Everton won the FA Cup in 1995, there have been 26 winners. Arsenal eight times, Chelsea seven, Manchester United four, Liverpool and Manchester City twice – and the rest of the league put together, the clubs outside of the Super League breakaway have three FA Cup victories together. Two of those clubs, Portsmouth and Wigan, are now in League One, but the third, Leicester, is a threat.

They epitomize what the Premier League’s wealth has done to the competition. Brendan Rodgers said they are the champions of the people in a Super League era, but there are those who hate Leicester. People at Arsenal, people at Manchester United, people at Liverpool for example.

The Leicester cup-winning squad has great stories, including Jamie Vardy up and down the team

The Leicester cup-winning squad has great stories, including Jamie Vardy up and down the team

Chelsea cannot lose a major Wembley opportunity to Leicester. Leicester is where Chelsea goes to shop. N’Golo Kante won the title there and did the same at Chelsea the following season. When Chelsea needed a goal on Saturday, they introduced Ben Chilwell, who moved from Leicester last summer – and remember, if Danny Drinkwater hadn’t been such a disappointment, he’d be part of this Chelsea team too.

It cost £ 35 million in 2017 and is still just 31. Take three of the best players from any team over four years and they shouldn’t be competing with you.

But Leicester did. They were better than Chelsea at Wembley, especially in the second half, and are two points and one place above them in the league. Since the summer when Chelsea took on Kante, the clubs have met 13 times in all competitions. Chelsea have won six, Leicester three with four draws. Still, Chelsea have won once in their seven most recent encounters, and their last win in the league was September 9, 2017.

Why? Well, Leicester doesn’t have the money to stand up to Chelsea in the transfer market, but they do have the money to afford some pretty good replacements after these raids. Tielemans is the perfect example.

Winning the FA Cup was a testament to Brendan Rodgers' talent as a manager

Winning the FA Cup was a testament to Brendan Rodgers’ talent as a manager

When Manchester United visited Anderlecht in a Europa League match in 2017, he was the name on everyone’s lips – the next big thing from Belgium. He was a first team player since 16, approached 200 games on 19 and would be included in the Belgian World Cup squad.

In his first two seasons he was the young player of the year in Belgium, in his third he was player of the year. And if a move to Monaco failed, this was the caliber of player Leicester could afford to recruit.

But it doesn’t stop there. Wilfred Ndidi, Wesley Fofana, Timothy Castagne, Ayoze Perez, Caglar Soyuncu – these are all players Leicester has recruited who wouldn’t look out of place in the breakaway squads. Most would start at Tottenham or Arsenal, and would certainly be contenders elsewhere.

The thing is, they are not inferior to those who would presume to shape European elite football. Jose Mourinho was the first to fall on this during his second spell with Chelsea. Before the start of the 2015-16 season, he cited Crystal Palace’s recruitment of Yohan Cabaye as evidence of the top to center narrowing. Mourinho called him the kind of player Chelsea could target if they weren’t already well staffed, then explained the meaning of his destiny.

“Cabaye is a player who left Newcastle two years ago to go to Paris Saint-Germain to get a lot of money at a high transfer fee, and he is coming to Crystal Palace,” he said.

“The players going to Stoke, the players going to Everton, with the players going to every club in the Premier League, it’s getting much more difficult. In 2004, it was Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea with all the ambitions of Roman Abramovich. The distances were enormous. ‘

For Palace, Everton and Stoke, read West Ham, Everton and Leicester. Except that Leicester is right in a way that the others don’t. Yet Richarlison, Angelo Ogbonna, Felipe Anderson, Allan and James Rodriguez are just the type of players who, in a parallel universe, could have the impact of Leicester’s recruits.

Are they inferior to what Arsenal or Tottenham bought? This is what the elite find troubling. Take an extra £ 20 million from Manchester United’s purse and chances are they won’t feel it; remove £ 20 million from Leicester and that directly affects their chances of competing. That way they can buy Tielemans, and then he wins them the FA Cup.

Club management also helps. “We’ve heard so much about owners,” exclaimed Alan Shearer as Leicester’s Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha – happily known as ‘Top’ – joined his jubilant players on the Wembley grounds. “This is how to run a football club.”

And he is right, it is. Top’s father, Vichai, was killed in a helicopter crash because he was not an absent owner, he was engaged, he traveled to support his club.

And not only in good times. The match Vichai had just attended when he died was a 1-1 draw between Leicester and West Ham. Leicester finished 12th, West Ham 13th. It could no longer be an everyday affair.

So when Top stormed into the partying crowd, it sharpened the posting of the Glazers and Kroenkes. Top was as happy as any Leicesterian, as happy as Gary Lineker, whose father, now an exhibitor, attended four FA Cup finals as a Leicester fan and saw them all lose.

And again, no wonder the six are scared. This is what can be achieved in the Premier League by a well-funded, well-run club. Compared to Leicester, they are not that big, these six. Therefore, they don’t want anyone else to play with their ball.