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To add up the number of crazy signings done by Leicester City managers, is not difficult, but you would probably not be too surprised to see the Top 10 of those deals picked out.
The first player to name is former Chelsea and Wimbledon great, Dennis Wise. Why on earth did Peter Taylor bring in one of the most hated players at Filbert Street. He must have known that using £ 1 600 000 on a player in his 30’s was also a risk.
Wise was a good footballer, but his reputation with the Leicester players and previous meetings with Chelsea and Wimbledon never really made him a favourite among Leicester fans. A horrible wrong decission that also turned out to become a nightmare when Wise on a pre-season tour to Finland, decided to fight Callum Davidson and ending his career at Leicester by getting his contract cancelled.
The next player on the list is of course Ade Akinbiyi. Another mad move by Peter Taylor who decided to use £ 5 500 000 on a player many people doubted had the ability to play on the highest level. He never managed to convince a single Leicester City fan, and by a year and a half he was sold to Crystal Palace for under the half of the price. The record fee paid in the summer of 2000, was still the record when Nigel Pearson, 14 years later decided to use £ 7 000 000 on Leo Ulloa, who also are among those players never to really win any fans over, not being able to keep a first team place, despite being a record transfer signing and off loaded four years later to a club in Mexico.
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Leicester City’s record buy to date, Islam Slimani, also struggled to adapt to the English game and became a very expensive reserve, not favoured to play regularly. So why Claudio Ranieri wanted to use Islam Slimani instead of Shinji Okazaki, is another strange and very frustrating move by the Italian mastermind. Ranieri had great success in his counterattacking style with N’Golo Kantè and Shinji Okazaki as key players and without them you needed to adapt to a different style of play and that was really the end of Claudio Ranieri and the style used during that fantastic Premier League win season.
Ranieri continued to buy a large number of new players, without really having a plan for the players signed and they were just left frustrated. Papa Mendy, Ahmed Musa, Ron-Robert Zieler together with Slimani were just added to fill the squad.
The life of football is different these days since agents are not patient and likes to earn as much money as possible, that makes them more eager to get a player moved around instead of being longer at each club. The amount of games also makes it difficult to keep a smaller group of players and not too many rotations.
Peter Taylor made a lot of signings during his time at Leicester, with Junior Lewis and Trevor Benjamin, being two that you would really not believe had cought the eye of a Premier League manager. Lewis was not a big money signing, but nevertheless not really a player of quality to make it in the Premier League, but what a bloke, great character and top professional he was, but again maybe not a footballer of this level. Benjamin was a £ 1 million signing from Cambridge United and became somewhat a loan star at clubs at lower levels, ending up playing for 17 league clubs and later moving around to a large number of non-league teams.
Martin O’Neill was described as one of the best managers in the Leicester City historyt and often made fantastic moves in the transfer market, bringing in Matt Elliott, Steve Guppy, Muzzy Izzet and several other great names. But he splashed the cash once and again on players you would normally believe he wouldn’t do. The signings of Arnar Gunnlaugsson (£ 2 million) and Graham Fenton (£ 1 million) might be looked up on as the most horrible use of money in the history of the club. Gunnlaugsson had a lot of injury problems, and never really made any impact. Fenton is probably more or less forgotten by everyone, ending his playing days in non-league with Blyth Spartans and North Shields.
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Looking back before the time of O’Neill you will find a certain Frank McLintock, making a mess out of the football club, strangely for such a great player to do so many errors so fast it was like a horror show. McLintock splashed the cash on Roger Davies, and he also introduced a lot of grand old men, to try to save the club from relegation. But would not say that the addition of David Webb and George Armstrong were bad, since it was not much money involved. Looking back at the days of Jock Wallace, Jimmy Bloomfield and Matt Gillies, most of what they did in the transfer market made great sense.
Being a bit old fashioned you like to see every transfer done, money used, on players that are coming to the football club for a purpose and hopefully that purpose is to do a job, not being left out on the training field and sitting on the bench for the rest of your time at the club. If that happens too often, then you will, as a manager, get great problems.
If we look at the two most recent appointments of managers, Craig Shakespeare and Claude Puel, you also feel a bit surprised. Shakespeare made a number of moves, Harry Maguire is a great signing, and Shakespeare should always be honoured for that, but he also bought players such as Eldin Jakupovic, having Ben Hamer, and used a lot of cash on Adrien Silva and Vicente Iborra, who in a way might not be as good as Andy King and Papa Mendy, both still at the club. You also have two young interesting players in Hamza Choudhury and Harvey Barnes, who both could be given a proper chance to establish themselves and are youth prospect from the academy.
Claude Puel has so far been modest in the transfer market, but to use £ 12 million on a goalkeeper, intentionally believed to be a cover and not a first teamer is a strange move. Danny Ward, not at all a bad goalkeeper, but with that price, you must have too much money to spend, and not really thinking about the aspect of pounds used.
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You like to see players coming up through the youth system and given a proper chance to break through, then add quality and players to a first team line-up that is very much needed, since you don’t have that type of player at the football club at the time.
When additions of players makes no sense at all, then you start to wonder why on earth did they use money on that player when you have a full reserve team of youngsters who are also given a chance and the tally of players available goes on and beyond 30+.
Puel is trying to downsize his squad and also add quality at the same time, not easy, but again hopefully he will be able to progress and someday soon get a more steady group of players and not making too many changes at the same time.
We will add up the group of strange signings to this top 10 list,
- Dennis Wise, Midfield, 2001, £ 1 600 000, Peter Taylor
- Ade Akinbiyi, Forward, 2000, £ 5 500 000, Peter Taylor
- Roger Davies, Forward, 1977, £ 250 000, Frank McLintock
- Islam Slimani, Forward, 2016, £ 28 000 000, Claudio Ranieri
- Ahmed Musa, Forward, 2016, £ 16 600 000, Claudio Ranieri
- Trevor Benjamin, Forward, 2000, £ 1 000 000, Peter Taylor
- Junior Lewis, Midfield, Nominal Fee, Peter Taylor
- Graham Fenton, Forward, £ 1 100 000, 1997, Martin O’Neill
- Arnar Gunnlaugsson, Forward, £ 2 000 000, 1999, Martin O’Neill
- Danny Ward, Goalkeeper, £ 12 000 000, 2018, Claude Puel