Over the past decade, Leicester City’s dealings off the pitch have been as outstanding as their performances on the pitch.
The Foxes’ ability to unearth a hidden gem, both domestically and overseas, has seen them cash in on some of the hottest properties in Europe, with Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire and N’Golo Kanté all returning eye-watering profits.
This summer, Leicester’s scouting team could well be set for their toughest assignment to date, as Manchester United continue to court the jewel in the King Power crown, James Maddison.
Since arriving from Championship side Norwich City in 2018, Maddison has lit up the Premier League, and if he is to be heading for the exit door, Leicester are sure to be left with bulging pockets as they seek his replacement. There will be undoubted clamour from the Foxes faithful for Brendan Rodgers to go out and make a statement signing from one of Europe’s elite, as the club look to solidify their place at the upper echelons of the Premier League.
But put your passport back in the drawer Leicester. The second tier of English football is awash with midfield talent, and the answer to your midfield question could be right under your nose…
6. Saïd Benrahma (Brentford)
If you were to compare each Championship club with a Premier League club, Brentford would undoubtedly be Leicester City.
Their ability to sign unknown players for (relative) buttons before developing them into stars is unrivalled. Neal Maupay, Andre Gray, Chris Mepham - all secured Premier League moves following successful spells at Griffin Park, and Benrahma is the latest star off the Brentford production line. The 24-year-old has been in sparkling form for the Bees this season, grabbing nine goals and six assists in his 28 league appearances.
5. Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford)
*COPY AND PASTE* - just kidding. But in all fairness, the similarities between the two are unavoidable.
Just like Benrahma, Mbeumo was plying his trade in the French second tier before being plucked out by Brentford. The 20-year-old has enjoyed an outstanding first season in English football, with 12 goals and six assists in his 29 league appearances. There’s no doubt Brentford’s style of play lends itself to flair players like Mbeumo and Benrahma, but Brendan Rodgers is hardly Tony Pulis. Leicester would be a fantastic club for either of these players to flourish.
4. Bradley Dack (Blackburn Rovers)
Gareth Southgate hasn’t been shy of a trip or two to the King Power over recent years, with Maddison, Vardy and Chilwell all establishing themselves in the England squad. Could Blackburn’s Bradley Dack be next?
The number 10 is gifted with two terrific feet, has an eye for goal and the natural ability to spot a killer pass. Dack has been out injured with knee ligament damage since December and is set for a long spell on the sidelines, but if he can rediscover his form when he returns he could certainly be one to watch.
3. Tom Cairney (Fulham)
Has already had two cracks at the Premier League, first with Hull and then last season with Fulham. Both campaigns ended in relegation, but don’t let the cloud your judgment of his talent.
Similar to Dack, has a natural ability to find pockets of space and produce defence-splitting passes, as well as being able to chip in with goals. At 29, the Scotland international may only have one crack at the Premier League left in him, and Brendan Rodgers would be the perfect mentor.
2. Jude Bellingham (Birmingham City)
Ok, so this one would have been labelled a ‘hidden gem’ before Man United reportedly decided they wanted to offer upwards of £30m for the highly-rated youngster - not so 'hidden' anymore. Nonetheless, Bellingham is a fantastic talent. Birmingham’s youngest-ever player, the 16-year-old can play anywhere at the top end of the pitch and has proven his eye for goal.
1. Emi Buendia (Norwich City)
Technically not a Championship player yet, but let’s be honest, it won’t be long. The Argentinian midfielder is rubbing shoulders with some of the Premier League’s finest in the stats department this year. Despite playing in a struggling Norwich side, Buendia has seven assists to his name this season, a record only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Could the 23-year-old be due to follow in Maddison’s footsteps?