For several seasons, he was regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe and of cause Nigeria’s biggest export to the English Premier League. The just concluded season has however not been too good for Wilfred Ndidi, with injury culminating in loss of form thereby limiting his playing time for Leicester City. With the Foxes now relegated to the English Championship, the big question is what is next for the midfield enforcer? Respite might however come his way as Italian champions; Napoli seems to be looking in his direction
Serie A champions, Napoli are said to be eyeing a move for Super Eagles’ midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi as the 26-year-old has reportedly emerged as a summer transfer target for the Parthenpeans, who are said to be preparing to bolster their squad ahead of the coming season.
According to reports, Ndidi is one of the players the Italian champions believe can help them retain their league title next term, with the reports also suggesting the deal between the Nigerian and the Italian club would be concluded in coming days.
Ndidi has one year left on his current contract at Leicester City.
Ndidi perfectly encapsulates the contrast between Leicester City’s success and subsequent decline. Once heralded as a top defensive midfielder, the Nigerian is now a shadow of his former self. Thus, it is no surprise that Ndidi’s calamitous drop-off has coincided with Leicester City’s gradual slump in form.
Ndidi at his peak was renowned for his destructive ball-winning capabilities and was part of a much-coveted Leicester midfield trio.
Whilst these halcyon days feel like the distant past given the current predicament, even as recently as last season, Ndidi was still putting up around six tackles and interceptions per game. This season concluded has seen a drastic decline in his defensive output, with the 26-year-old mustering a measly 3.5 tackles and interceptions per game. On the pitch, this has resulted in the side being bypassed too easily with Ndidi no longer the solid protector in front of the back four.
Whilst his passing has never been his forte, such glaring limitations on the ball are even more evident due to the decline of Ndidi’s defensive output. and Leicester City have really struggled to build up with Ndidi in the ‘6’. His inability to show for the ball or deal with it in tight spaces means that the Foxes often have to go long, ceding possession back to the opposition. At times these technical deficiencies have even directly led to opposition goals due to Ndidi dawdling on the ball or making an errant decision.
After a horrific outing against Man City, Ndidi did himself no favours in his bid for future selection. For the three goals scored by the Citizens, Ndidi could be criticised for his role in each one. Firstly, he lost his marker John Stones, though this could be harsh to criticise since Stones’ finish was unbelievable and unexpected. Nevertheless, the other two goals were the direct result of the Nigerian’s failings.
His costly habit of giving away penalties and his failure to win a 50-50 in the midfield led to the game being out of sight by half-time. The latter error is something that the Ndidi of old would not have permitted. The one-man wrecking ball is clearly no more leaving the club with no chance of survival, and it was no surprise that the Foxes were eventually relegated.
With Nampalys Mendy impressing when coming on, he was the best fit for Leicester’s relegation run-in. Even though he lacks the height and defensive presence of Ndidi, he is much better with the ball. That being said, after many poor displays, can Ndidi still hold his defensive acumen as his unique selling point?
Before his injury, among the King Power Stadium faithful, Ndidi was a cult hero, and to Leicester City Manager the midfield enforcer is indispensable.
The Nigerian was then a sure starter and statistics proved that he was Foxes most important player in the last two years.
To some then, it was still a miracle that Leicester City were able to hold on to their jewel in spite of inquiries from big European clubs of the former Nathaniel Boys player.
For several transfer windows, Ndidi has been linked with a move to Old Trafford to take command of the holding midfield, an area the Red Devils have been found wanting but somehow Leicester City held on to the midfielder.
Ndidi had severally proven to be one of the best tacklers in Europe. In the Community Shield game against Manchester City, Ndidi rose to the occasion for Leicester City and was the boss in midfield.
Ndidi also increased his passing accuracy and he hardly makes mistakes when protecting his back three or back four and he gives his central midfielders the confidence to surge forward.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, he has had 591 tackles in 152 premier league games, 325 interceptions and 355 clearances. He has 1,291 ball recoveries and has won 1,277 duels, one of the best records in the Premier League.
How much value Ndidi adds to Leicester City has never been lost by former manager, Brenden Rodgers and the Irish has never stopped showering encomiums on the Nigerian, describing him as irreplaceable.
“It’s impossible to find what we have, we’ve got good players, but specifically the job Ndidi does in breaking up play and just his overall defending and in the box, he’s irreplaceable for us,” Rodgers had said.
“He’s one of the top players in world football. His quality in his football is improving all the time. He is irreplaceable for us. He’s fantastic for a young player.
“What is pleasing as a coach, is that he wants to learn. He will improve and get better. I’m so happy he plays in my team,” Rodgers once said.
Though Ndidi’s contract with Leicester does not expire till next year, with his fitness still suspect, a move to Naples will just be a respite.