Sunderland’s La Liga “First Division Play-Off” winner, Ndidi Rabiu, was steering clear of the media just before Christmas, but after English football’s top two teams launched their respective players’ bids for the World Cup, the wonderkid was obliged to take part in a press conference to discuss the club’s top transfer target.
“Isis is the hardest team in the world to play against,” Ndidi said of his likely opponents in next summer’s African Cup of Nations for the Nigerian national team. “For sure we will get our revenge for all those defeats they have had against us!”
Ndidi’s compatriot and team-mate Ahmed Musa, and his Leicester team-mate Wilfred Ndidi, were equally unfazed. Ndidi said he and Ahmed always let Leicester coach Claude Puel talk to them about potential big-game challenges, as “he knows what he is doing in those situations”.
While they were playing in extra time at Middlesbrough last month, Wilfred Ndidi thought about how another African star, Didier Drogba, used to post “crazy things” on his Facebook page. Ndidi was thinking about his, too: about playing his 100th English game on Saturday, against Watford, against whom he set up 20 of Leicester’s goals.
Tuesday’s deal for the Watford midfielder Valon Behrami came and went, as did the Everton deal for Burkina Faso’s Idrissa Gueye.
Coach Marco Silva summed up the subdued mood by saying he was being cautious with the funds he was receiving. “It is true,” he said. “The owners are just waiting. Everything is possible, but I think it is better to have the money instead to give an opportunity to young players.”
It is Leicester’s way of getting ahead of the game. It is also Everton’s way of thinking. It is also Sunderland’s way of thinking.