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When Arsenal triggered Jamie Vardy’s £20million release clause in June 2016 it was quickly assumed the striker would be swapping Leicester for London.

After scoring 24 goals to fire the Foxes to the Premier League title, Vardy was a wanted man – along with many of his team-mates.

Just days before England were due to fly off to France for Euro 2016, Arsenal made their move and agreed to meet his £20million release clause.

Social media exploded.

“Come on @vardy7 – let's do this. #afc,” tweeted notorious Arsenal fan Piers Morgan.

“Stay with the Champions @vardy7 don't join the perennial also-rans,” replied former Foxes striker Gary Lineker.

In the end, after nearly three weeks of rumours and waiting, Vardy rejected Arsenal and signed a new contract with Leicester.

It was a hammer blow for Arsène Wenger, who had clearly made the England international his top priority as indicated by how early he moved for him in the transfer window.

“Look, you have to respect the decisions of people and that’s part of it,” said Wenger two months after the dust had settled.

“I think in every transfer market you have one or two who have decisions to make and you have to respect them.”

Internally, though, Wenger must have been disappointed.

Arsenal never really recovered from failing to sign Vardy in that window and in the end they swooped late for Lucas Pérez.

Tellingly, he is already back on loan at Deportivo La Coruña.

The fact that it took Vardy nearly three weeks to reject Arsenal’s approach gives an indication as to how torn the 30-year-old was about the decision.

Like the rest of the Leicester team he had been part of a miracle at the King Power Stadium during the 2015/16 season, the like of which will probably never been seen again.

Walking away from that was always going to be difficult and speaking in September 2016 Vardy gave an insight into how he wrestled with his thoughts back then.

“I was in a hotel room [in Chantilly at Euro 2016] for so many hours of every day with nothing to do. You had a lot of time on your hands,” said Vardy.

“You get that much time to think about every single thing down to the tea lady. You think about what might happen, what might not. Where you could be, where not.

“Every time I thought about every little thing, though, both head and heart were saying ‘you need to stay’.

“I am not going to beat around the bush – every time I thought about it, and every aspect of it I thought about, both my head and my heart were saying to stay at Leicester, which is why I made my decision to stay.

“I could see people’s point when they assumed I would go, but, deep down, if you don’t think it’s right for you, you don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.”

After staying put, last season did not fully go to plan for Vardy.

He did get to taste Champions League football as Leicester made it all the way to the quarter-finals, before they were narrowly beaten by Atlético Madrid.

However, domestically, things took a turn for the worse as the defending champions surrendered their Premier League crown to Chelsea.

By February, manager Claudio Ranieri had been sacked and in the end the Foxes spent most of their time fighting at the wrong end of the table.

But, even after watching Arsenal win the FA Cup in May, Vardy has no regrets.

“It wasn't the Premier League was it? So we're all right with that I think,” he recently said. “I'll never regret anything I've chosen to do.”

And truth be told Vardy should have no regrets about staying at Leicester because he has made the right move for his career.

For the Foxes, Vardy is the main man and the focal point of their attack.

Leicester’s direct style is all geared towards getting the ball forward quickly and allowing Vardy to exploit the opposition’s defence with his blistering pace.

Everything is engineered towards making sure the 30-year-old is at his most effective and that includes playing him alongside Shinji Okazaki.

The Japan international is the perfect foil for Vardy, dropping into midfield and linking the play so that counter attacks can be swift and devastating.

In the modern game, Okazaki is incredibly unique and it is unlikely Vardy could find a strike partner like him anywhere else.

The whole tactical shape of Leicester benefits Vardy and at Arsenal that was never going to be the case, as he explained in September 2016.

“With people like Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil creating chances, Arsenal felt they could benefit me as much as I could them,” Vardy wrote in The Sun.

“But I also thought about the tactical aspect. You look at Arsenal’s style of play and they don’t get the ball forward quickly in the same way Leicester do for those runs I like to make in behind the defence.

“One thing that didn’t worry me was the idea that I wouldn’t be the ‘main man’ at Arsenal.”

Vardy would have been taking a huge gamble at 29 to leave a club where he is adored by the fans and the team is setup perfectly for him to thrive.

There is no telling where Wenger would have played him, but it is quite possible he could have been deployed out wide as has happened to strikers at Arsenal in the past.

Down the road, Vardy has recently revealed he could one day leave Leicester.

“I turned down Arsenal, that was my choice,” he said.

“But if another offer came in it would be the same in that I would look at it and work out the pros and cons. But no, turning down Arsenal doesn't mean I wouldn't look at another offer.”

However, right now Vardy looks as settled as ever at Leicester and his decision to stay at the King Power may mean he is the talk of the town next summer too.

Although this time, it should be that all the noise around him is as he completes his remarkable journey from non-league striker to World Cup hero.


Premier League