Will Leicester City bring Steven N’Zonzi back to the Premier League in a club record deal?
Claudio Raneiri is weighing up whether N’Zonzi is the man to replace N’Golo Kante. Rumours linking the Sevilla player with a move to the English champions surfaced at the start of the week, suggesting the Foxes are willing to activate the player's £25 million release clause.
Once again, it would be a great piece of business at the expense of a flush English side. The Frenchman left Stoke City for the Spanish side last year in a £7m deal, and it appears the Foxes are ready to smash their record transfer fee of £15m paid to CSKA Moscow for Ahmed Musa last month.
N'Zonzi played the full 90 minutes in Seville giants' 3-1 Europa League final victory over Liverpool in May – and proved himself a vital part of a successful side under – now Paris Saint-Germain boss – Unai Emery.
A total of 47 appearances and four goals in all competitions is a decent return for his first season in Spain – especially considering he is more noted for his defensive contributions. He did, however, pick up three red cards, showing that old habits die hard after his time in Stoke.
A Leicester side with N’Zonzi at the heart of its midfield may be reminiscent to the one that brushed aside all-comers as they strode to the title last term.
Manager Ranieri has ‘confirmed the speculation’ surrounding the player this week and his team which, if you think about it, doesn’t actually mean anything! Nonetheless, the Italian sought to clarify his position by saying: “Look, for me, it is important to coach these players and to improve these players. I speak only about my player and not the other players.”
Classy as ever, Ranieri is refusing to talk about players under contract elsewhere – but there is no smoke without fire. Indeed, sources close to the Sevilla camp have stated that N'Zonzi's €30m buyout clause is ‘non-negotiable'.
The Leicester Mercury understand that Leicester have already made contact with Sevilla and the player’s representatives about completing the transfer as soon as possible.
That has seen the Football Whispers Index score shoot up to 3.6, showing that the deal is beginning to gather pace.
The Foxes have spare funds available, and despite the signings of Musa and Nampalys Mendy – the latter for an undisclosed fee, believed to be between £10m and £13m – they are still interested in signing another defensive midfielder.
Maybe it really is true what City fans say, that Kante really did the work of two men.
N'Golo's supposed replacement Mendy is injured and likely to be out for the next three weeks and, after failing to win either of their opening two league encounters, could do with a top-class alternative to play alongside Danny Drinkwater.
Leicester were interested before N'Zonzi went to Sevilla, but it looks like they will have to pay a premium price to prise him away this time around. The rangy midfielder turned them down last time because of a lack of European competition – something the Foxes can now as an added incentive.
They were also handed a relatively weak group in yesterday's group stage draw…
— Leicester City (@LCFC) 25 August 2016
… which means they have every chance of making it through to the last 16 at the first time of asking. Sevilla also qualified thanks to their Europa League exploits – they will face Juventus, Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb.
A costly addition, yes, but if the deal does go through it further build on the solid defensive foundations and a ruthless counter attacking game that took them to last season's historic title.
Neither club have outright ruled out the possibility of the signing happening before the window closes, so this Leicester Whisper should make interesting reading over the next few days.