Jamie Vardy has committed his future by agreeing a new four-year contract with Leicester City, despite having recently extended a deal with the Premier League champions in February.
The Foxes forward had been the subject of a £20m bid from Arsenal with a lucrative offer on the table, yet he appears to have settled on staying at the King Power for the foreseeable future.
Vardy netted 24 times in 36 league appearances for the surprise champions, helping them to their first ever top-flight title.
Nevertheless, the prospect of joining Arsenal – 13-time champions of England and Champions League stalwarts – would no doubt be a very tempting one for any player, especially when it would have meant a significant wage increase.
Vardy’s big gamble
Vardy’s decision to stay in the east Midlands rather than make the trip down to the more illustrious London club, does look something of a gamble.
Leicester’s rise to the summit of English football was both extraordinary and drastic, but how sustainable it will be remains to be seen.
New arrivals Ron-Robert Zieler and Luis Hernandez could help strengthen the third-best defence of last season’s Premier League even further, but there are genuine fears that neither Vardy, nor his side, will be able to replicate their heroics of last year.
Blackburn’s story resonates
Blackburn Rovers, who won their first and only Premier League title in 1995, then slumped to a disappointing seventh the following season, despite having finished 12 places higher in the year before being crowned champions than Leicester did.
On this evidence, Claudio Ranieri’s men even managing to qualify for a place in the Europa League last season would have been highly commendable, so to become just the sixth club to win the Premier League was simply incredible.
Europe adds extra strain for Leicester
It’s perhaps bitter sweet that the Foxes now have to cope with the added congestion to their fixture list, with the draw for the Champions League group stage taking place on 25th August.
The Premier League champions will find themselves in Pot 1 for the draw, amongst the winners of the other top European leagues, such as Barcelona and current cup holders Real Madrid.
This may well give them a kinder route through to the knockout stages of the competition, but it is well-documented how the additional fixtures and travelling can affect league from, and has even led to some managers, famously Brendan Rodgers when his Liverpool side travelled to Real Madrid, to rest key players.
Boss Ranieri has already insisted that simply avoiding relegation will be his side’s first and main priority for next season, but having never been crowned as a European champion himself, he will surely be aiming to take the Foxes as far as possible in the competition.
The Premier League just got stronger
The Italian, formerly known as the Tinkerman, may have been named Premier League Manager of the Season for 2015/16.
However, with coaching titans Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte installed at Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea respectively – as well as Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp looking to pick up where they left off after successful campaigns last time out – it’s difficult to see the Foxes challenging so strongly next year.
What Arsenal could have offered
Arsenal on the other hand have qualified for the competition for Europe’s elite for the 16th consecutive season and seem a shoe-in for top four at 4/7 with Ladbrokes and a definite contender, at 11/2, for the title.
Vardy could have been a key factor in Arsenal realising these ambitions and unlike at Leicester, he would not have shouldered so much of the responsibility given the array of stars already assembled at the Emirates Stadium.
Is Vardy’s loyalty misguided?
At the King Power Stadium where Vardy is the crowned prince, all the pressure is on the former Fleetwood centre-forward to repeat his fabulous season, which arguably cannot be surpassed thanks to its record-breaking nature.
If he loses assist-maestro Riyad Mahrez to one of Europe’s footballing giants as well, then there is no guarantee the same quality of service will be provided either.
Vardy may have just have made a big career faux-pas. The decision is commendable for its loyalty, but appears one where he forgoes the chance at another title and European contention simply to try and recapture a one-off magical season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.