It’s hard to hold on to a world class name if you’re a team that’s not among the super rich. No sooner do your players become established than they get poached. Yet, somehow, Wilfred Ndidi is an exception to the modern football rule. The midfielder is a lynchpin to Leicester City’s team, and they’ll be glad to keep hold of him. But for a player in a position that’s in demand, Ndidi is hardly discussed in the market.
There’s a sense of a player who may have outgrown Leicester. So, why is he still at the King Power?
On the 15th of January 2015, Wilfred Ndidi completed a transfer deal worth € 180,000 to join Genk of Belgium from Nath Boys Academy, a football Academy at Police College Ikeja.
It didn’t take too long for the young lad then to get noticed, and get interest from clubs in the premier League having shown his prowess at the Belgian Club and stamped his presence in the League.
Wilf joined Leicester City of England on the 5th of January 2017, few months after Leicester in a fairy tale manner, won the league. Leicester had N’golo Kante, whose huge role in that defensive midfield role helped to their title win, but lost him to Chelsea during the summer transfer window. Having to replace him was important, and Wilfred Ndidi was the one called upon from Genk to fill that void Kante left.The champions paid £15 million for the combative midfielder.
Since he Joined Leicester, he has been the bedrock of the midfield for the Foxes, being a consistent performer in his tackling, interception, clearances and also aerial duels won. Ndidi can boast of not having so many players of his position close to him in terms of the numbers, which is why he’s highly ranked in the top five 5⃣ European Leagues.
Since he got into the Premier League, he has amassed great numbers and here’s a look at his numbers for each season.
Coming into the Premier in January means half a season with your team, and Wilfred, in 17 appearances with the Foxes, put in two goals. On defensive duties, he had 36 interceptions, 117 ball recoveries, 68 tackles, and 150 duels won.
It was a good entry into the league for the Nigerian as he strongly announced his presence in a few games.
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2016/2017 season.
Having integrated well into the Leicester side and gotten used to the tempo of the League, it was expected of Ndidi to deliver more defensively. In a season where he was involved in 33 games, he had two 2⃣ red cards to his name for the season.
But that wasn’t the definition of Wilf’s season, the improvement in numbers was some soothing stuff for the Foxes’ fans. Wilf had a 64% tackle success, 50 interceptions, an improved duels won, doubling the numbers of the previous season, accumulating 313, plus 296 ball recoveries as well.
With these numbers, Ndidi had proven that he was in the League to dominate and was ready to be the one to be chased. Was he going to reach that beast mode?
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2017/2018 season.
Only Etienne Capoue of Watford then had more interceptions than Wilfred Ndidi, though with five 5⃣ games less. But Ndidi beat him to every other number you could list out.
38 appearances for Wilfred saw him score two 2⃣ goals.
There was an improved tackle success from the previous season, having 69%, with 83 interceptions, 328 duels won and 328 ball recoveries.
At this point, Wilfred was already that guy Leicester was going to do anything to ensure he is on the Matchday squad, due to the huge impact he gave in games.
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2018/2019 season.
No player had more interceptions than Wilfred Ndidi this season, having 80 to himself, even with 32 appearances. He capped it with 2 goals also.
He had 271 ball recoveries and 260 duels won.
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2019/2020 season.
This season was a good one for Ndidi and he could have probably had it much better than the previous, but injury kept him out for quite a number of games. One who had played 38 games in a row was limited to just 26 games, missing out on 12.
Albeit, it still turned out to be a good one, in terms of the numbers. Only 4 players had more interceptions than him, as he had 61 interceptions for the season. His tackle success was 66%, 227 ball recoveries and 184 duels won.
Despite being injured for most of the, Ndidi still maintained class and showed why he was highly revered as one of the top defensive midfielders not just in the League but in world football.
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2020/2021 season
This was a poor season for Ndidi in making appearances. Ndidi did have a half season in the numbers, 19 appearances was all he could make for the Foxes last season in the premier League.
He still had decent numbers, because he is already that guy at the top of his game, and was always going to deliver anytime he featured. His tackle success was 53%, 42 interceptions, 165 ball recoveries and 135 Duels won.
Ndidi’s defensive numbers for the 2021/2022 season
Ndidi’s fine numbers has made him highly venerable not just amongst Fans of Leicester, but a huge number of football lovers. Cases of fans of other clubs wanting him for their team,and also getting linked with so many top clubs across Europe is also a certification of his prowess.
But in all of these, Ndidi still is a Leicester City player, and not disrespecting Leicester he should be in a bigger club. You would likely say I’m coming from this angle because I’m of Nigerian dissent. Well, your thoughts may not be out of place, but the numbers and what is viewed doesn’t lie right?
Players of the same position who have also proven their prowess and some who Ndidi even rates higher than, have moved from the teams they developed from to a bigger team.
Kalvin Phillips has joined Manchester City from Leeds United, Yves Bissouma has Joined Tottenham Hotspur from Brighton & Hove Albion, Franck Kessie who was at a Bigger club than Leicester in Ac Milan has also moved to join another big club in Barcelona, so asking again, why is Ndidi still at Leicester?
There could be so many reasons why he’s still at Leicester, perhaps the case of not being challenged personally? Or because of his study at Leicester? Or not being properly managed? There are so many questions hovering around seeking answers for a fantastic player at his peak.
Taking lines from Eseoghene Edafe, our CEO, speaking on last week Tuesday’s episode of the Sports Buffet on our Radio, Edafe said:
“ My take on Ndidi is that firstly, I feel the Nigerian Players are not as Marketable as we think, they go to Europe and just get a regular/average person as their agent. They don’t really have agents who can pass through the doors and broker proper deals that would make a hit. “
“ For the past three (3) seasons, I think Wilfred Ndidi already has the chance to move to a bigger club, but then again, we could hang it on the case of his going to school and his academics, that could just be the reason”
“ I just hope Wilfred Ndidi doesn’t look back and feel he should have done something better. But then again, he’s a Nigerian Player, it’s always hard for Nigerian Players to regret their career. If Okocha is still seen as the best thing to happen to the Nigerian Midfield, then why should anyone blame Wilfred Ndidi?”
“Being very, honest Leicester is a bigger club than Bolton Wanderers in which Jay-Jay Okocha played for, so he could look back and say it went well”
Ndidi’s contract at Leicester expires in 2024 and it’s left to see what unfolds before then, but Wilf at Leicester is something most of the fans cherish greatly and always look forward to seeing him play on match days.
I spoke to three (3) Fans of Leicester who are season’s ticket holders of the club. I asked them about their fanship experience with Leicester and their feeling about Ndidi as a Leicester player, and how they would feel if Wilfred leaves for a bigger club in the Premier League, or Europe and who suits replacing Wilf if he leaves.
“As a fan, I have been a season ticket holder at Leicester City football club for over 30 years. My mother and grandfather were both fans and I started to come to games when I was a child with my mother. I now still sit with my mum but also now bring her grandchildren with me”
” The fanship has been up and down! Literally. We as fans have seen many promotions and relegations, we have seen the club suffer financially, go into administration and get sold and bought many times over. But the past 10 years since the Srivaddhanaprabha has been wonderful. We’re so grateful to them for what they have done for our club and the city of Leicester.”
“For Wilfred Ndidi, he is my favourite player.”
“When he isn’t on the team sheet my heart sinks. His success rate in tackles is incredible, you almost expect him to win every one. He has a timing to know exactly when to time the challenge to win the ball.”
” I think it’s instinctive, something you can’t teach. His workrate is immense, he’s always running, collecting the ball, distributing it beautifully, that link between the defence and the attacking midfielders like Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall and Barnes. “
” He’s incredibly underrated – but that’s fine because hopefully that means the ‘bigger’ clubs will leave him alone!! We have other really talented defensive midfielders in the team who have substituted in well when he isn’t fit (Nampalys Mendy, Hamza Choudhary) but Ndidi is a class act” Rebecca said.
On how she would feel if Leicester let’s Ndidi leaves and who replaces him, she said;
” Leicester fans are realistic. Despite our successes in recent years (and don’t forget we have won the title, won the FA Cup, won the charity shield and finished in the top 10 regularly and in recent years in the top 5) we know that we don’t have the money or weight of other clubs around us. “
” Even I know that names like Liverpool and Manchester United come with a level of history that makes them special and the likes of Manchester City and Newcastle United have financial backing few can compete with.”
“So we know that despite the success, we are not traditionally a ‘big’ club. We know that for some players, being in Europe regularly and earning a healthy salary is important. But we also know that we trust the club and we trust our owners, and we trust Brendan Rodgers. “
“They’ve not let us down yet. They have always found or nurtured good talent. Last year’s player of the season Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall for example, or Wesley Fofana or Youri Tielemans, or James Maddison, or N’golo Kante. All players who have come to Leicester, given us success and in themselves, shone a light on their footballing talent.”
“So if Ndidi were to leave, I would be upset”
“But I would thank him for the many years of excellent service, commitment, good nature (he always smiles and is kind to the fans) and wish him well. Because I would be confident that the club would find a player to fill the gap. It’s harder now, because COVID 19 has affected club finances. But I still feel confident that we will attract talent to our brilliant club.”
“That said – please don’t leave us Wilf!!”
” I’ve Been supporting Leicester since I was 6 years old. I was taken to my first game by my uncle and I fell in love with the foxes! “
” The fan experience at Leicester has been amazing and the interaction between the club is incredible I bring along my younger brother with me to the games and the interaction he gets is so good for him at a young age”
“On Wilfred, I always fear games when Wilfred is injured/not playing as he is such a big part of keeping Leicester as a team “
” If Wilfred decides to move away from Leicester I would be happy for him as a player, but as a Leicester fan I would be so upset. There is no player out there who could fill the boots of Wilfred ndidi in a Leicester shirt”
“I first started to support Leicester when I was in the womb. My Dad, Grandparents, and Uncles are all big fans of the club. I am 41 today Friday, so that’s how long I have supported the club. I attended my first game in 1986 and became a Season Ticket holder in 1988 and have had the season ticket since then.”
“The experience of supporting Leicester is better now than it ever has been due to our Thai owners. “
“In my humble opinion, Ndidi is a unique player and always a pleasure to watch. If Wilf is injured then I always have concerns over how the match will go, levels of anxiety depend on who the opposition is. “
“He may not be the best player within the Leicester squad but he is the most important. When he breaks up play he allows players such as Maddison and Tielemans to get on the ball and release Vardy. “
“When Wilf isn’t playing, the guys I’ve just mentioned struggle more. If Wilf was fit for the 2nd half of last season I have no doubts that Leicester would have won the Europa Conference League.”
“If Ndidi were to leave Leicester I would be upset, I’d hope he would go to another European Club rather than remain in England as it would break my heart to see him wearing another English clubs shirt and play against Leicester. “
“It is not only Ndidi’s play that has made Leicester fans fall in love with him, he is also a modern day role model, always smiling, never in trouble and from what I hear he is a nice, humble man. “
The Leicester fans have made no secret of their love for Ndidi, and that may be the main reason why he remains with the Foxes. But, in the modern age of football, is love enough? Ndidi has more than proven his mettle at the King Power, and it’s not outlandish to suggest a move higher up is not so much inevitable as it is overdue.