Whether Leicester City stay in the Premier League or drop down to the Championship, there are a number of players who may be making their final appearance for the club this weekend
Even if Leicester City do not have to wave goodbye to the Premier League this weekend, a handful of influential squad members could be bidding a fond farewell to the club. Whatever City’s fate, it will feel like the end of an era.
Here are seven players who could be making their final appearance in blue at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
If the Brendan Rodgers era at City is to be personified by one player, it may be Youri Tielemans. No member of the squad has played as often as the Belgian midfielder during the past four years, and he was at the heart of their most memorable moment, scoring what is maybe the greatest goal in the club’s history in the FA Cup final.
A few days later, he tearfully waved to the crowd at the King Power. It was taken to mean he was leaving. He explained that he was just upset that the club had missed out on Champions League qualification.
Since then, his form has mirrored City’s, gradually waning over the course of two years to the point where he is some way off his peak. His lack of commitment off the field, resisting a new contract over the course of two years and yet still occasionally taking the captain’s armband, has been a point of contention among supporters, and it has been perceived by sections of the fanbase as a lack of commitment on the pitch, unfortunately harming his reputation.
Now he is at the end of his contract, he is almost certain to leave whatever happens on Sunday, and he will hope to join a club that can offer him a return to the Champions League, a competition he first played in at the age of 16.
For Caglar Soyuncu, who also reaches the end of his contract this summer, the situation is a little different. Having been overlooked by Rodgers for so much of the campaign, and having returned to the team under Dean Smith and been one of City’s leading performers, he will depart with his reputation intact.
The Turkish international struggled last season, but in the past month has shown many of the qualities that earned him a place in the Premier League team of the season three years ago.
Now, there is even more disappointment among the fanbase that he will be joining a team as good as Atletico Madrid with no fee coming City’s way.
In the spring of last season, Rodgers suggested Jonny Evans could become the Premier League’s next Thiago Silva, a centre-back playing well into their late 30s, but using their experience and intelligence to cope with any loss of physical ability.
But since then, Evans has spent more time on the sidelines with injury than he has on the pitch. His start against Liverpool just over a week ago was his first in the Premier League for more than seven months. Doubts around his fitness may mean City have second thoughts over renewing his contract this summer, even if they stay up.
There have been at least a few occasions where Papy Mendy has nearly left City and it seems he may now do so just as he has reached the point where his stock is highest among supporters. A steady presence at the base of the midfield when he’s been in the side, he has been one of the players fans have been asking to see more of.
But with the midfielder turning 31 this summer, now seems like the right time for him to find a club where he can get more regular football. He has at least signed off with a decent season and a memorable goal against Tottenham.
Now a true star of the Premier League, there will be no end of clubs lining up to take James Maddison whatever happens this weekend. He has just 12 months left on his deal, and has given no indication of signing another, and so the leading clubs will come swooping for an attacking midfielder that has consistently registered goals and assists for the best part of two seasons. To avoid losing him for nothing, City know they have to sell.
Most City supporters would accept that Maddison’s form means he has earned his move to one of the country’s top clubs, but the past couple of months may mean the well-wishes from fans are not quite so universal.
His tweet after the defeat at Southampton, in which he said City would be “absolutely fine”, will go down in infamy and has been seen as the symbol of the lack of acknowledgement of City’s woes this term. Still, he clearly cares, and he will hope that is remembered when he does leave.
If they stay up, City may be reluctant to lose both Maddison and Harvey Barnes in the same summer, with the winger their second most valuable asset. Twenty-nine Premier League goals and assists over the past two seasons – more than Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford – has not earned him more England recognition, but it has won him more admirers from around the Premier League.
He has two years remaining on his contract and Aston Villa, West Ham, and Newcastle have all been named as potentially-interested parties. A sale is inevitable if City go down, and possible if they stay up. It would be a shame to see the jewel of the club’s academy playing elsewhere.
Third on the list of City’s most valuable players is Timothy Castagne. His consistency and versatility earned him interest from Atletico Madrid last summer, and there are likely to be more clubs keen to take him in the event that City go down.
He’s not one of those who could definitely leave if City do retain their Premier League status, but with the club well set for full-backs, if a side does come in with a nice offer, it may be difficult to turn down, particularly if he wants to leave to play European football again.
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