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Claude Puel’s Leicester City will be looking for reinforcements in the transfer market this summer, but there may be one player currently out on loan who is a ready-made addition to the squad, especially if Riyad Mahrez leaves.
Ahmed Musa found it difficult to adapt to life at the King Power Stadium after a switch from CSKA Moscow, and was limited to appearances from the bench during his time at the club which affected his rhythm.
However, he is back at former club CSKA on loan and is showing glimpses of the form which saw the then Premier League champions shell out a club-record fee of £16million for his services.
During CSKA’s heavy defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie, Musa was one of the few positives for the visiting side along with Russian midfielder Aleksandr Golovin.
The forward was a constant threat to the Arsenal back line, getting beyond them with his pace, in a style similar to that of Jamie Vardy. This may be the reason Leicester originally signed the Nigerian attacker in the aftermath of their title winning season, perhaps seeing him as a like for like back-up to the pacy Englishman who is now in his early thirties.
But as is often the case with second-choice players, Musa struggled for form and made just seven league starts, with most of these being on the wing rather than up front.
He did manage to score five goals during his time with the Foxes, but was regularly relegated to the under-23 squad in order to maintain match fitness.
Back at Moscow for the second half of the 2017/18 season, he’s begun to get the consistent game time which he hopes will see him recapture the form which saw him alert clubs across Europe prior to his move to Leicester.
He may have only scored once since his return, but he leads the team in key passes per 90 minutes with an average of 2.3. He is a creator as much as he is a scorer, which is lucky as he’s only netted once since his return, although it was an important goal against Lyon in the Europa League.
This shows he could have a role in Puel’s side should Mahrez leave, as he’s not just about explosive pace. He could replace some of the creativity and unpredictability they’re likely to lose following the Algeria international’s exit.
Gernot Rohr, the Nigeria coach, believes the move will be good for the player ahead of the World Cup, held in Russia.
“Musa is going back to Russia and it is very good news that he will be playing there,” said Rohr. “Musa playing in Russia is a positive development so that we will have the support of Russian fans [this summer]. The people there like Musa.”
The World Cup could be another showcase for Musa's talents. And rather than thinking about the possibility of using him in their squad, Leiceste may even be subjected to bids from numerous teams looking to add him to their own ranks.
But that all depends on how he and Nigeria do in Russia, but they're in a difficult group with Argentina, Iceland, and Croatia.
He has played three league games since his return to CSKA, and they have won them all. Importantly for the player he has completed 90 minutes in two of these, and 84 minutes in the other, as he looks to establish partnerships alongside the different skill set of Pontus Wernbloom, or the more similar Vitinho.
His arrival saw the departure of fellow Nigerian Aaron Olanare, who was sent on loan to Amkar Perm as Musa became the main man up front.
Musa is the most fouled player in the team since his arrival, which shows how much of a thorn he is in the side of the opposition.
Albrighton, [Demarai] Gray and [Riyad] Mahrez.
“Sometimes it's tough, it's difficult for the staff to make a choice and give him more game time but in training sessions he always has a positive attitude and this is very important for him and the squad.”
This shows he’s in Puel’s mind, if not yet in his plans, and with some of that competition likely to be gone next season, he could have a role to play.
The remaining seven games in Moscow, and the World Cup which follows them, could have a big say on Musa's future.
While it wouldn't be wise to judge him solely on this period, Leicester did spend a lot of money for him in the first place. They may be wise to give him the chance to pay some of it back next season.