Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were a major factor in Leicester City’s title success last season. The club won the league title against all the odds and it ranks as one of the greatest achievements in football history considering the magnitude of the opposition and other factors. As Leicester were not amongst one of the traditional top clubs in the Premier League, they learnt it the hard way that vultures will circle around for the prized assets even after one of the biggest achievements in the sport. Mahrez, Vardy, and Kante were all linked with exits too much bigger clubs once the dust had settled upon the Leicester City’s title celebrations.
N’Golo Kante became one of the first departures after joining Chelsea in a £30 million deal. Vardy’s progress from non-league football into one of the top scorers in English football has been nothing short of a fairytale. However, Mahrez’ astonishing turnaround in the last 12 months ranked as one of the biggest. Mahrez went from a relative unknown into the PFA Player of the Year after a great campaign. While Vardy was constantly linked with Arsenal throughout the summer, Mahrez was linked with several other clubs in addition to the Gunners.
Vardy rejected the opportunity to join Arsenal even as the club met his release clause, while Mahrez also chose the same. However, was it the right decision by Vardy and Mahrez to reject Arsenal?
Leicester City started the new season in the worst possible manner. A 2-1 loss against newly promoted Hull City, who had only 13 fit players, no new signings and an interim manager speaks volumes. Much of the poor form started as early as in pre-season when Leicester lost much of their friendly games. Leicester have become the first team since Arsenal to lose on an opening day as champions. It could get worse for the foxes, as they have little pressure to do well this season. Arsenal, however, will at least be in contention for honours even if they do not win titles.
It was clear from the opening day loss that many teams will be successfully able to work out Leicester’s tactics. Mahrez and Vardy may not have the same opportunity to shine this season. The transfer opportunity that they rejected this summer may not come back in 12 months. At 29 years of age, Vardy may have passed up an opportunity to play for a top club whereas Mahrez may have to choose lesser opportunities if he has a poor 2016-17 season.