Billion dollar question: Table-topping Leicester City’s Vardy and Mahrez dilemma


Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri says Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy are not for sale this January, but should they be?

It’s a question that will continue to dance through the minds of Leicester City fans, administrators and interested Premier League observers until the January transfer window closes, and the idea only picked up buzz after Leicester’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Monday sent them back atop the table.

Should the Foxes sell Mahrez and Vardy in January with their value an unparalleled high, or keep the red-hot stars and seek its first ever UEFA Champions League appearance?

[ WATCH: Vardy’s goal | Mahrez’s, too ]

There are plenty of fancy numbers to back up just how good the pair have been, and perhaps also to point out that Vardy and Mahrez — with due respect to players like Christian Fuchs and Wes Morgan — are making Leicester an absolute outlier, one with perhaps unsustainable success.

First, from the Premier League’s Player Performance Index, which shows that Leicester’s money men are playing better than any other players in England:


Then, there’s advanced stats site Squawka, which considers how important they’ve been to the Foxes’ success in relation to their teammates:

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Now, consider this: whether you believe in advanced statistics and/or the importance of possession, consider where Leicester ranks in the Premier League this season.

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That brings us to another level of trouble for this debate: valuation. In terms of traditional footballing transfer numbers, Mahrez is more valuable. At age 24 and with 22 caps for Algeria, he has much more of a consistent resume for club and country beyond his exceptional season at King Power Stadium.

Vardy, however, has exploded onto the scene this season and will be 29 next month. He’s also English, which means he’ll net a far higher fee than a foreign player with the same resume (let alone the “We sign English” value to a board and fan base in a Euro year).

Do you hang onto one? Do you hang onto both? What’s the plan?

[ MATCH RECAP: Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea ]

Give it ’til New Year’s.

That’s not a cop out; The Foxes have a terribly tricky run to end 2015 — at Everton, at Liverpool, home to Man City — and have had an unusually easy set of fixtures to start the season. How do their results do on your eye test (which is not discrediting them for eating what’s been put on their plate)?

Their wins? Swansea, Newcastle, Watford, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Norwich, West Ham, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Chelsea, a win that isn’t looking so impressive right now.

Their draws? Manchester United, Southampton, Stoke City, Bournemouth, Tottenham.

Their loss? Smoked 5-2 by Arsenal at King Power.

What’s missing from there? Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool, the next three opponents on the Foxes’ docket.

While few would bet against Leicester right now, it’s rational to wait a couple weeks to decide whether the Foxes should be planning for now or shooting for the future.

If the Foxes can pick up at least a win and a draw from these next three dates, two trips to Merseyside and a visit from Man City inside of 10 days, then by all means hold onto your studs and go for it. But, if we it goes as we suspect and those three sides have better depth to deal with the congested festive slate, then maybe you move Mahrez, Vardy or both in the hopes of building depth.

Look: I’m loving this ride, and I don’t want it to end. Here’s hoping the Foxes prove their mettle with five, six, or even nine points.

But the possession numbers say this is unlikely to last, and the opponents are going to get tougher. Let’s revisit this in a fortnight.