Looking at differet scenarios as we do in the column, what if? is surely fun and this time we bring on Rafael Benitez as the choice of new manager after Brendan Rodgers, seen as a hot contender for the job, at the time nothing said about being interim or a full appointment.
Rafael Benitez would surely have been one that considered the job and with him in charge it could have been a totally different life for the club. He was this summer appointed new manager of Spanish La Liga club Celta Vigo, so the Leicester job could surely have been a realistic option for the experienced manager.
Rafael Benitez (63) would have brought with him “Paco” as his assistant as the two are partners going far back. He could have kept Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell to have the continuity at the club.
Rafa would have settled for a 4-2-3-1 as it was known to the Leicester players. The goalkeeper would have been Daniel Iversen, having Timothy Castagne, James Justin, Victor Kristiansen, Ricardo Pereira and Luke Thomas to choose from in the full back positions left and right.
Central defenders all being considered for positions as Evans, Vestergaard, Souttar, Faes and Soyuncu fought for those jobs. Amartey seen as a cover and an option if injuries striked on the others.
The three midfielders being Tielemans, Ndidi and Maddison, having Praet, Mendy, Dewsbury-Hall and Soumare as alternatives.
Harvey Barnes would have started alongside Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy as goals possible would have been much in favor. Iheanacho and Vardy altering on being front man and wide as you with three attacking options would have been able to see fantastic runs coming both from the flank and inside for both players.
“Rafa” with the help of “Pako” would have taken Leicester out of trouble and into safety as they cleverly prepared next season with a pragmatic view on what to do, using their massive network in the game to make the moves they wanted possible.
Leicester would have stayed loyal to the 4-2-3-1 system, but also made heavy decissions on changes to be done with a massive clear out taking place as the team were prepared for the 2023/24 season.
All of the players that we did see leave on a free would also be flown in this scenario. We would also have seen the sale of James Maddison to Spurs, but for a higher fee, £55million. Timothy Castagne (Arsenal, £20million), Wout Faes (Monaco, £15million) and Wilfred Ndidi (Bayern Munich, £20million) would also be sold. Patson Daka (Everton, £17million) and Kelechi Iheanacho (Crystal Palace, £17million) were both leaving as well.
Daniel Iversen, Danny Ward and Alex Smithies were all seen as players as possible departures if anyone wanted to take them on as a new goalkeeper was to be signed.
This would have freed up a lot of space for “Rafa” to bring in quality rather than quantity as new players and a competitive squad had been build. A kitty of £144million would have been available, if “Rafa” had been given the money from the transfers to use.
Jacub Stolarczyk would have been the cover goalkeeper, “Rafa” going to Spurs to bring in Hugo Lloris to do the job in goal. The 36 year old goalkeeper and World Cup winner would have been the ideal man in goal as he still is one of the top goalkeepers in the game, but seen as a finsihed man at his current club Spurs, and the move would have happened without any money inolved.
Pereira, Justin, Souttar, Vestergaard, Thomas and Kristiansen would have all been there. One addition would have been done in defence, Kyle Walker, coming in from Man City for a fee of £12million, and using him in a central defender position alongside James Justin as they would have build the most pacy central defence in Premier League, being able to push the back line as high in the field as possible, having Souttar and Vestergaard both as alternative partners if injury to one of these and also having the two towers available late in games to keep a lead.
Kalvin Phillips would have been another pivotal signing from Man City, being signed for £35million, giving new possible chances to Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Dennis Praet, Hamza Choudhury and Bouba Soumare to build on their careers, and possibly being able to sign Alex Scott from Bristol City, as the 19 year old talent would have been the man to have in there as an exciting option. A fee of £25million must have been used on the player to be able to bring him to Leicester.
Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes, Kasey McAteer, Marcal-Madivadua would have been given a future, but also bringing in Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Everton for a fee of £45million, and Emile Smith-Rowe, coming from Arsenal for a fee of £25million. Marc Albrighton had been given a chance to leave if he wanted, but still part of the squad.
Leicester with “Rafa” in charge would have been back challenging for a top four spot and with the following preferred formation and players in a dream eleven, far from impossible, if “Rafa” had been in charge and the club still in Premier League;
Lloris – Pereira, Thomas, Justin, Walker – Phillips, Dewsbury-Hall, Scott – Calvert-Lewin, Barnes, Smith-Rowe
Subs: Vardy, Vestergaard, Praet, Soumare, McAteer, Madivadua, Kristiansen, Souttar, Choudhury, Stolarczyk
Transfer fee, sales out; £144million
Transfer fee, signings in: £142million
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