It was the last question of the press conference, framed in the fact that the Premier League is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Craig Shakespeare, it was difficult to suppress a smile as he contemplated if Leicester City could be crowned champions again during the next quarter of a century. â€œWhy not?â€, he said. â€œEveryone should have this conviction.â€
Speaking in a room decorated with the titles and the pages that have hailed Leicester’s extraordinary triumph 15 months ago, Shakespeare has spoken of a roller coaster ride as he reflected on the highs and lows of the last few years and, at the same time, he tried to look towards the future. â€œWho knows?â€, he said the 53-year-old with a chuckle when asked what was in store for his team this season after the great escape, the Premier League and qualification for the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the last three seasons.
Transfer roundup: Leicester City sign George Thomas and Adam Legzdins joins Burnley
The Leicester owners have been more opposite to outline their expectations. Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the vice-president, said last month that Leicester are aiming for a top-10 position, and to â€œexpand our focus to the cup racesâ€ if the team gets off to a good start. All that appears realistic on the back of a summer of transfer activity that puts Leicester behind only Manchester City and Manchester United, when it comes to net spend.
The transfer balance at the King Power Stadium since the end of last season, in fact, a Â£53.8 m deficit the following contract of the midfielder of Sevilla’s Vicente Iborra, Kelechi Iheanacho Manchester City and Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic from Hull City. â€œI am very satisfied with what we have,â€ said Shakespeare.
It is a recruitment campaign that promises to be much more successful compared to last year, when Leicester splurged more than Â£60 on Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa, Nampalys Mendy and Bartosz Kapustka, among others, and, in terms of performance on the field, has very little in exchange. Kapustka has embraced Freiburg on a season-long loan and it is quite plausible, the other three players also have to leave before the end of this window.
If Riyad Mahrez will still be at Leicester remains to be seen. He has made it clear that he wants to move, but no club have met with the Leicester assessment for the player, believed to be about 50 pounds â€“ and, in the meantime, the 26-year-old remains an integral part of the management of the plans, with the Striker expected for milan against Arsenal on Friday for the opening game. A move to Arsenal would have appealed to Mahrez, but an agreement was never close, with Arsene Wenger deciding that he had enough options in that area already, including Mesut Ã–zil and Alex Iwobi.
Even if Leicester accept Mahrez should start out with, they are determined to keep their other key players, including Kasper Schmeichel and Danny Drinkwater, who missed the Arsenal game through injury along with Iborra. The speculation linking Drinkwater with Chelsea has not gone away and Shakespeare was reluctant to discuss the situation in any depth. â€œWe are a club that doesn’t need to sell, that it is of vital importance,â€ he said. â€œWe have got owners who want to keep their best players. We don’t want to be the sale of the club. We want to add to what we have.â€
Kelechi Iheanacho joins Leicester from Manchester City in a Â£ 25 million deal
The spine of the Leicester, the team certainly looks much stronger thanks to this summer signings and it will be fascinating to see how Iheanacho rates now has the opportunity to play regularly. His 12 goals in the league to the Town came at an average of one every 107 minutes â€“ the best ratio among all players in double figures in the Premier League, but the Nigerian was never going to get an extended run at the Etihad Stadium. â€œWhat I’ve seen so far I’m really impressed,â€ said Shakespeare, who sees no reason why Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy can’t play in front of together. â€œI like his character and his quality of play was there for all to see. We hope to be sitting here in 12 months and has had a hatful of goals.â€
In every way, the spotlight will be Leicester this season, their Premier League, it was delivered and a sense of normality has returned. They got off to an inauspicious start in the opening game of last season, when Hull inflicted a defeat surprise that has provided a sign of things to come for a team that were deep in relegation trouble in the time of Shakespeare, has taken the sacking of Claudio Ranieri.
Shakespeare, who was given a three-year contract after turning Leicester’s fortunes, hopes to establish a marker of a different type to the Arsenal.