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Sports Features of Thursday, 19 July 2018

Source: Adam Brooks

Daniel Amartey set for breakout season at Leicester City

Leicester City have given Ghanaian international Daniel Amartey a vote of confidence by rebuffing bids for his signature this week. West Brom, Stoke and Swansea have all made approaches for Amartey, but the Foxes have signalled their intent to keep hold of the in-demand star.

That should provide him with a huge confidence boost ahead of the new campaign as it has not all been plain sailing since his £5million move from Copenhagen in January 2016. He struggled with injury last season and did not enjoy much game time, but he should be ready to live up to his vast potential in the 2018 campaign.

Amartey was heralded as one of the world’s greatest young talents when he joined the club. “I am more surprised no other Premier League teams fought to buy him,” said Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken after the move. “I think Leicester scouted the right man and he will only get better and better as a footballer. In Copenhagen, no one can speak highly enough of him, on and off the pitch. He steadily became better and better every month. In two or three years’ time Leicester will be on their knees praying that he signs a new contract.”

He gained a Premiership title winner’s medal in his first season as the Foxes romped to an unlikely title victory. They sold N’Golo Kante to Chelsea that summer and Claudio Ranieri turned to Amartey to fill the gap. But joy turned to despair for Leicester and Ranieri, as the champions ended up battling against relegation.

The club sacked Ranieri, much to Amartey’s disappointment, but he played his part under new boss Craig Shakespeare in helping steer Leicester to safety. Wes Morgan suffered an injury and Amartey dropped back to midfield, displaying his versatility to great effect and proving to be an able deputy for the club captain.

By the start of the 2017/18, campaign, Wilfried Ndidi had established himself in the holding midfield role for Leicester. That meant Amartey was not a first-team regular as Morgan returned from injury, and he was often used to deputise for right-back Danny Simpson. He suffered a hamstring injury and missed the run-in to the season under new manager Claude Puel, and speculation raged about his future. But the club have now indicated that they intend to keep Amartey and it will be up to him to deliver on the vast potential that Solbakken mentioned.

He is still only 23 years old, so he has plenty of time in which to improve. But he is already a fully-fledged Ghana international and Leicester should know what a fine talent they have on their hands. The Foxes’ midfield is stacked with options, including Ndidi, Vicente Iborra, Adrien Silva, Andy King, Matty James, Hamza Choudhury and Papy Mendy. But Ndidi is the only one that really possesses a similar skill set to Amartey, so he should have plenty of chances to shine.

His versatility is also a huge plus for Puel. Leicester have plenty of centre-backs to choose from, including Harry Maguire, Morgan, Jonny Evans and Yohan Benalouane, but Amartey provides another interesting option and he also frequently excelled at right-back. German clubs have also cast admiring glances his way, Leicester would not have rejected bids for him if they did not think he had a future at the King Power. The Premiership is a physical, demanding league, and Amartey has all the attributes to thrive.

He has already shown flashes of his quality for Leicester, and it will be fascinating to see how he develops for club and country in the year ahead. A review of Betonline shows that respected bookmakers only give the Foxes an outside chance of glory next season, but they have previously defied far longer odds that than, and they could flourish with Amartey leading the charge.