Leicester City were the gatecrashers when they last qualified for the Champions League… now Brendan Rodgers’ men are striving to join the VIP list with their European fate in their hands on the final day of the season
- Leicester City can secure Champions League football by beating Man United
- There will be a sense of disappointment if they fall short of qualification this year
- Brendan Rodgers’ men were second in February before a sudden slide in form
- Leicester are aiming to become regulars in Europe and not just gatecrashers
When it comes to Leicester City, their ambitions and the Champions League, there are two truths to remember: they are a club still building under Brendan Rodgers and their fate, ultimately, is in their hands.
Their ability to do the former will be affected, whatever happens against Machester United, by the latter.
The Foxes have had their taste of Champions League football before, following their title win, and reached the quarter-finals only to lose to Atletico Madrid.
Leicester City are hoping to cement themselves as both English and European giants
Back then, though, they were the fun, carefree gatecrashers among the VIPs. Now they strive to be mainstays on the guest list.
Victory over Manchester United on Sunday will secure their place at the next party at least. Even a draw and defeat for Chelsea at Wolves would see them past the doormen.
And with that spot, the riches it brings and the clientele it can attract, Leicester’s hopes to establish themselves in the Premier League elite one day will be more achievable than if they do not.
An in-form Manchester United side stand in Leicester’s way of Champions League qualification
Leicester were second and 14 points clear of United back in February before slide in form
This is why there would be such a sense of disappointment if they fall short, considering the club were second in the Premier League at the start of the year and 14 points clear of United in fifth, even though, as Rodgers is keen to remind us, the target at the start of the season was Europa League football. That is already secured.
But missing out on the Champions League, and after being so close to it, the concern will be whether the club can attract and keep the standard of players to keep them moving in that direction.
Rodgers believes they still can. And his message to any players who may wish to chase their European dreams elsewhere is emphatic.
‘First and foremost, it’s about finding commitment from any player,’ said Rodgers. ‘If a player doesn’t want to be here, with all due respect, we don’t want them here.
‘It’s as simple as that. The club is a wonderful environment to develop and improve any player. I understand that there are players who maybe want to play at that level. We are not in that market the same as the other teams but we have ambitions and we have to continue to improve and develop.
‘If players want to go and look at other clubs that are Champions League clubs then, one, the club doesn’t have to sell, but if they do then there is always a premium for that player. Leicester have shown that long before my time here.’
The Foxes did that last summer when they received an £80m world-record fee for United captain Harry Maguire. Leicester would demand a fee of similar proportions for Ben Chilwell, who is already a priority target for Frank Lampard at Chelsea.
The Foxes received an £80m world-record fee last summer for United captain Harry Maguire
They are also expected to receive a large sum of money for Ben Chilwell this summer
Leicester plan ahead. As with Maguire, they make sure they have a replacement lined up. Leicester signed Caglar Soyuncu before Maguire left. They have academy product Luke Thomas as a promising young left-back.
While maximising the lofty price tags for their talent, Leicester have still sold a star player every summer since winning the league. N’Golo Kante, who had a release clause, and Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea. Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City. Maguire to United. Will it not be difficult to halt that trend without Champions League football next season?
‘Even if there was no European football, Leicester City is still a very attractive proposition,’ insists Rodgers. ‘This is a fantastic club that has ambitions and that is moving forwards step by step.
‘We are moving into a training facility next season that will be one of the best in world football.
‘We are a team that develops players. We have European football, of course, that will help bring us on next season. We would love to be in that Champions League bracket but we know how hard that is to sustain that.’
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