Leicester were adamant they would not sell Wesley Fofana for less than the world-record fee of £80million paid for a defender, when Harry Maguire was sold to Manchester United in 2019.
Sky Sports News understands that the final deal with Chelsea is for £70m in guaranteed cash, with a possible £5m in add-ons. So what has changed?
Basically, Fofana was desperate to move to Stamford Bridge. And once he made that clear to Brendan Rodgers, Leicester were faced with a dilemma of sticking to their guns and forcing a disgruntled player to stay, focusing on trying to fix him. re-enter the fold once the window closes, or negotiate to get the best possible price for their biggest asset.
Leicester were unwilling to sell Fofana in this window. They intended to keep him for at least another season, believing that his experience and profile would only improve during that time, as would his asking price. But his desire to leave was key.
The player’s advisers grew increasingly frustrated with what they saw as Leicester excluding their man from a career move. Fofana’s camp couldn’t understand why their 21-year-old was given the same price as Maguire – who was sold as England’s first-choice centre-back, with years of Premier League and international experience – l finished item.
Leicester, for their part, were equally frustrated that Fofana had thankfully signed a two-year contract extension in March, taking his full deal until 2027, and now demanding a move, months later, even though Chelsea won’t. had not matched Leicester’s asking price.
Chelsea, at this point, negotiated very smartly. Arriving with relatively low offers which they knew were unlikely to be accepted, they remained silent and let Leicester’s internal frustrations play out.
Behind the scenes, Chelsea knew that personal terms would not be in question. And the longer they waited, the more Fofana’s desire to leave would grow, and the harder it would be for Leicester to keep him and deal with the situation.
Fofana missed a training session at Leicester – not because he went on strike, but because his head was turned and he couldn’t perform at his best on the pitch training. Rodgers reacted in the only way he could – knocking him out of the line of fire and taking him out of the matchday squad for two games.
Meanwhile, with new sporting director Martin Glover not yet in place, chief executive Susan Whelan has taken the lead in talks with Chelsea. His priority was to get the best possible price with workable add-ons – no need to be able to save face by saying it was an £80m fee, for example, if £10m of those fees were based on ambitious add-ons which Fofana was unlikely to achieve.
And so a compromise was found. Not the world record fee Leicester wanted, but a huge amount of money for a 21-year-old.
It’s important to point out that a significant part of that £70m is due to St Etienne who demanded a sell clause when selling Fofana in 2020.
Add to that the fact that Leicester inevitably face huge cost-cutting measures to meet their forthcoming financial fair play obligations, and fans may be desperately disappointed in the short term to lose the biggest jewel of their league. crown, who is likely to be replaced by a player who will cost only a fraction of that £70m.
Leicester needed that money, and only around a third of it is likely to be reinvested in the playing squad. It’s a worrying fact, with the team currently bottom of the Premier League.
As for Chelsea, many fans will be surprised by such a high fee for a player who missed three quarters of last season with a broken leg and played just 37 Premier League appearances in total. Fofana is yet to win a senior cap for France.
But, aside from being a smart, quick and physical defensive presence, Fofana is a very rare commodity in European football due to his ability on the ball. This is what made him Thomas Tuchel’s number one transfer priority.
Tuchel thinks Fofana will be absolutely essential to the way he wants his Chelsea team to play: sure, but progressive in the game from the back, with defenders who can read the game well and who are equally adept at carrying the ball forward or to spray a board. of passes. It’s Fofana in a T-shirt.
As a top coach explained to me, opposing players don’t know whether Fofana is going to hit a long or short pass, or whether he’s going to spot a space in midfield and drive the ball forward himself. This will make it much more difficult for opponents to mount a defensive press against Chelsea and win the ball high up the pitch.
In the end, after a few months of difficult and often tense negotiations, each of the three parties can walk away and feel like they got a good deal.
Fofana is obviously delighted – he will play in the Champions League, compete for trophies and line up alongside Kalidou Koulibaly, who he has often said is one of his favorite defenders to watch.
Tuchel now has a key defensive cornerstone who can be a catalyst for the way he wants to play, and who will surely only get better in the seasons to come.
And even Leicester – while licking their wounds by losing their biggest asset for less than they originally wanted – can be confident they weren’t bullied into selling cheap and have more than doubled his money for a player he had bought a little more. than 18 months ago.
Leicester’s most difficult sale will be convincing their supporters that this sale was necessary, that there is a long-term plan to build on and that their ambition to compete at the top of the Premier League remains strong, even in the absence of a Fofana.
Wesley Fofana to Chelsea: Why did Leicester soften their stance on world record transfer fee?