Was Cambiasso replacement right under Leicester noses?
23rd September 2015

He may have left the club but his legacy lives on. While no one player is bigger than your team, Esteban Cambiasso came pretty damn close to breaking that particular rule.

He only signed for one season but what he helped achieve in that time will never be forgotten by Leicester City fans the world over. He was the experienced head on the shoulders of a fledgling Premier League team. With no disrespect to Wes Morgan, when he was on the field he was captain in all but name.

18th April 2015 - Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Swansea - Kasper Schmeichel celebrates the final whistle with Esteban Cambiasso of Leicester City  - Photo: Paul Roberts / Offside.

But despite an alleged three offers to stay at Leicester City, Cambiasso moved onto pastures new and to Champions league football offered by Greek side Olympiacos, triggering the search for his replacement.

Two midfielders arrived in the form of 24-year-old N’Golo Kante from French side Caen, and Switzerland captain Goklan Inler, 31, from Napoli.

With 84 caps for the Swiss, including appearances at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup, along with the 2008 UEFA European Championship on home soil, Inler was seen as the natural successor to Cambiasso’s crown. Add the fact that he has also played 15 times in the UEFA Champions League for Napoli and FC Zurich – surely this was the man the Foxes were looking for to fill the midfield void left by Cambiasso?

But new City boss Claudio Ranieri proved everybody wrong by not tinkering too much with the team he inherited from Nigel Pearson. The previous season’s top scorer Leo Ulloa can count himself unlucky to be replaced by summer signing Shinji Okazaki, but everyone was looking to see what would happen in midfield.

With Cambiasso gone and Matty James injured, Ranieri turned to established Leicester stars Danny Drinkwater and Andy King, with Kante and Inler having to wait a few games to make their respective Leicester bows.

And when, following an impressive display for Switzerland vs England in a Euro 2016 qualifier, Inler was finally given his City start, it was King who gave way.

13th September 2015 - Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Aston Villa - Jack Grealish of Villa battles with Daniel Drinkwater of Leicester - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Joining from Manchester United in January 2012 and after an inconsistent start, Danny Drinkwater slowly made one of the central midfield positions his own. During the promotion season of 2013-14, Drinkwater was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year and signed a new four-year deal in June 2014.

But Drinkwater suffered with Pearson’s constant team changes and Cambiasso’s emergence, only making 23 appearances in the Foxes’ first season back in the top-flight.

However, with Matty James injured, he started the first match of the 2015-16 season in central midfield for Leicester, and produced a performance that had boss Ranieri gushing: “Danny was fantastic”.

It seems he as much, if not more, than anyone, has learnt a lot from Cambiasso during his stint at Leicester. With six starts from the first six league games this season, Drinkwater looks to be settling into the midfield general role with some good solid performances. Overshadowed by the performances of Riyad Mahrez, especially when it comes to man of the match awards, he is going about his business under the radar which in turn has taken some of the pressure off him.

After two starts, Inler has yet to produce a performance that has the fans gushing in quite the same way Cambiasso did, so maybe we should be looking at Drinkwater. Only time will tell if he is the man to step into the big shoes left by Cambiasso, but sometimes what you are looking for can be right under your nose.

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