Where on earth is Leicester City from here? The European adventure is in progress, and their supporters have more than a few weeks to sing â€œChampions of England, we know what we areâ€. Life, and then returns to normal for a club living the dream for the last 12 months. Except that no one in Leicester is ready to accept the normality. â€œWe’ve had a taste, we want more,â€ Danny Drinkwater has said.
This message echoed around the end of the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, long after the AtlÃ©tico Madrid had extinguished the hopes of adding a new chapter to their fairy tale. There was a mixture of pride and disappointment among the players after a 2-1 aggregate defeat against a club that reached the semi-finals for the third time in four years, but no suggestion whatsoever that they have heard the hymn of the Champions League for the last time.
Leicester 1-1 AtlÃ©tico Madrid: what we learned from the King Power Stadium | Stuart James
Wes Morgan, the captain, did not hesitate when he was asked if it was realistic to think that Leicester could play in the competition. â€œYes, absolutely,â€ he replied. â€œThis season has been more down than ups, but I have the impression that we have turned around and we come good now. If we had shown the same form throughout the season that we showed in the end, we could be in the Champions League.â€
If Morgan is being too optimistic or not, the truth is that it’s really difficult to know where they belong these days. Look back over the past two years and it has been a wild graph of ups and downs, the great escape during Nigel Pearson’s reign at this extraordinary Premier League title success with Claudio Ranieri. Start a Champions League quarter-final in the mix this season, and their flirt with relegation, before a dramatic rise in results following the promotion of Craig Shakespeare, and it is difficult to Leicester in the football is of a hierarchical order.
What is clear is that the club has a critical period ahead and to make important decisions. The first great appeal revolves around the manager and if Shakespeare, who has won six of his 10 games in charge, should be given the job beyond the end of the season. Everything indicates that to be the case at the present time, with Shakespeare highly regarded by Leicester, the owners and open to the idea of talks sooner rather than later.
Conversations about the reading of the squad will be more complicated and Leicester know that they can’t afford to repeat the mistakes they made last summer, when their recruitment was desperately poor. They have spent the better part of Â£60m on Islam Slimani, Nampalys Mendy and Ahmed Musa alone, none of them could be described as a success, so much so that it would not be surprising if they all moved on before the new season starts.
The spotlight will fall on Jon Rudkin, the director of football, and Eduardo Macia, the club’s head of recruitment, in order to get the right players this summer. While the central defence is seen as a priority â€“ Middlesbrough Ben Gibson is among those considered â€“ Leicester business transfer will also be dependent of the spending and their ability to keep their most influential players. Morgan suggested that â€œeveryone wants to stayâ€ when he was asked if the club could hold on to their names, yet Leicester are no longer able to dangle the Champions League carrot as an incentive.
Without a doubt, the greatest concern is Kasper Schmeichel, who is one of the few players to have enhanced his reputation during a difficult season. Schmeichel, 30, has signed a five-year contract last summer and has never given any indication that he is looking to move, but it is expected that there will be interest from big clubs, a goalkeeper whose distribution is as impressive as his shot stopping. Everton will be in the market for a new N Â° 1 of the summer, the two clubs of Manchester could be in a similar situation, and the goalkeeper merry-go-round in the Premier League can’t stop there.
On the face of it, the player most likely to leave the east of Riyad Mahrez. When Mahrez has signed a new contract last summer, ending months of transfer speculation that had little foundation to it, there is a school of thought that Leicester would not stand in his way if he wanted to leave 12 months later, however, the Algerian has been a huge disappointment this term and it remains to be seen if his form will have the effect of discouraging the best clubs to continue, especially as its price will be high.
Two of the other key assets are older than 20 years and it seems likely that Leicester will need to convince both Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray for they play the more often the next season in order to keep them out of the grip of the other. The fact that Chilwell â€“ a target for Liverpool last summer â€“ was introduced at half time of the match against AtlÃ©tico provides a measure of Shakespeare’s faith in him. Gray, on the other hand, does not have the feature and the impression is that the winger is frustrated by his lack of opportunities.
It will, in short, be a busy summer, and in which they are going to come back to reality, in many ways. The passports can be put aside for the moment that the staff, players and fans to contemplate the most mundane of schedule without Champions League football on the calendar. The memories, however, will live on and provide stories to talk about for years to come.
â€œIt has been an incredible journey,â€ Morgan said. â€œI’m not sure who thought we could get there, but we believed in ourselves. To get all the way through to the quarter-finals in our debut in the uefa Champions League the season is a huge success. It is finished now, but we’re proud of what we have done and can leave the competition head high.â€