In 2015/16, Leicester dramatically won the Premier League against all odds. Many expected a decline from the Midlands club. But the Foxes have defied the odds and finished in the top half of the league four times in the last five seasons. Their sustained success has improved under Brendan Rodgers, who was appointed as manager in 2018. In his three seasons in charge, the Foxes have finished fifth for two consecutive campaigns and reached the Europa League group stages.
At the heart of the club’s development and consistent improvement is a progressive transfer policy. The Foxes regularly purchase young, talented players from across Europe. They then develop the players and sell them for a profit, which is reinvested into building the squad.
The approach is unique and rarely used, as many of Leicester’s rivals in the Premier League have spent hundreds of millions creating potential title winners with less success.
Buy Talent, Sell for a profit
Leicester transfer policy was first evident when the club purchased N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez. Both players were central to the 2015/16 title-winning squad, but they were also expendable.
Kante was signed for around £8 million from the French side SM Caen in 2015, while Mahrez cost Leicester £450,000 when he joined in 2014 from Le Harve. After impressive first seasons representing the Foxes under Claudio Ranieri, the valuation of the two players soared. Kante was sold the following summer to Chelsea for over £32 million. Mahrez stayed with Leicester for another two seasons after winning the title before Man City snapped up the playmaker for £60 million.
These two transfers were well calculated and considered by the club as they saw the potential profit. Subsequently, Leicester used the money to reinvest in the squad. In recent seasons, Leicester have used funds from the Kante and Mahrez sales to purchase key first-team players. Young talents, including James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, James Justin and Çağlar Söyüncü, have all been purchased for meagre fees, but they have had important contributions on the pitch.
Being an established Premier League club that qualifies for Europe also helps Leicester attract some of the best footballing talents to the King Power each season, as well as making backing the foxes through Football Betting even more tantalising as they’ve shown to be quite the force in Europe.
A big part of Leicester’s improvement and success has been allowing players to go when a big offer is submitted. However, the club’s acceptance to let players go has been balanced with their valuation of the player’s they are selling and a resistance to drop prices during negotiations.
One of the Foxes most high-profile sales was that of England defender Harry Maguire. The Foxes signed the towering centre back from Hull for £12 million in 2017 and sold him to Manchester United for £80 million two years later.
But Leicester were not satisfied with United’s original offer for Maguire, which led to weeks and weeks of discussions and negotiations. Leicester’s hierarchy did not budge on the valuation of £80 million, eventually leading to United’s agreement to buy Maguire for full price.
What can other teams learn?
This reinvestment policy helps Leicester to remain competitive in the Premier League. They are improving each season, whilst also spending within their means.
Buying young players from lower leagues or from Europe comes with an element of risk. But Leicester are proving how efficient recruitment can pay off in terms of league position.
Compared to their Premier League rivals, Leicester have been over-achieving based on their lower spending rates on transfers. Top-flight giants Manchester City and Man United have had the highest net spend by some distance in the league over the past five years. United have spent £457.6 million, and City have outlaid £357.31 million since 2017.
Man City have achieved well domestically based on their spending since 2017, winning the Premier League three times in the past four seasons. However, for their huge net spend, Man United have won fewer domestic honours than Leicester since 2017. The Red Devils have not won a major trophy during this time, while Leicester have lifted the FA Cup and still managed to qualify for Europe in the past two seasons.
A starker comparison can also be made with teams like Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton, West Ham, Liverpool and Aston Villa, who have all had larger net spends than Leicester over the past five years.
In particular, Arsenal’s net-spend, the third highest in the Premier League since 2017, has produced little success. The Gunners were regular top four candidates until recently. But while their spending has gone up, their league position has dropped.
The North London side have an opposing transfer policy to Leicester. They have signed over-priced players with little potential and sell-on value and rarely recruit younger, developing players. Arsenal have spent £291.33 million in the past five seasons, compared to Leicester’s £114.36 million, and the Foxes have finished above the Gunners in the past two seasons.