Kelechi Iheanacho: Manchester City outcast who is steering Leicester City to Champions League

Kelechi Iheanacho-Leicester City

Not Arsenal, Not Tottenham and Not even the defending champions Liverpool. It is Leicester City who are looking like the favourites to seal a place in the top four after Manchester City and Man United. The Foxes have surprisingly found a catalyst in Kelechi Iheanacho – not Jamie Vardy or James Maddison – as the Nigerian striker’s superb goal-scoring of late is getting them closer to Champions League qualification.

Iheanacho’s coming to the fore at the right time

Leicester City, albeit in full control of the first half of the season, started to fluctuate since the turn of this year – three draws and three defeats. Jamie Vardy, the club’s talisman, failed to continue the goal-scoring run he had at the start of the season – of the 13 goals he scored so far, only 2 came in 2021. Furthermore, James Maddison’s absence for a set of games due to injury – luckily, he is back in action now – left Brendan Rodgers in slight trouble. Enter Iheanacho.

The 24-year-old started on the fringes for Foxes this season and got his minutes as a substitute. He played for the entirety of the game during the home leg against Arsenal, which was a not-so-memorable outing as Leicester succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. The following game against Burnley saw the Nigerian open his account for the season- perhaps the first of many that no one saw coming. Iheanacho went on a relentless goal-scoring streak, racking up eight goals and an assist in 6 league games that followed that included a stunning hat-trick against Sheffield United and a double against West Ham, despite losing the game with the latter.

FA Cup heroics

Iheanacho translated his fine Premier League form to FA Cup, producing a match-winning display against Manchester United in the quarter-finals, garnering two goals and an assist, arguably his best performance in the Leicester shirt. He also delivered the winning strike in the semi-finals against Southampton and now would be hoping for a similar performance against Chelsea in the finals next month.

Iheanacho – a late bloomer

Iheanacho commenced his senior career with Manchester City, the club where he spent the youth ranks as well. He was known for his cameo performances when he was integrated into the first team in the 2015/16 season, but he eventually failed to nail down his place as regular due to overwhelming competition present around at that time – especially the presence of Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus hindered the progress of Iheanacho.

Despite sealing his transfer to King Power Stadium in 2017, the Nigerian suffered a similar fate he had at Man City, failing to get regular playing time. After all the patience and struggles, Iheanacho is looking like a real deal now, and if Leicester were able to finish the season on a high note, his contribution would be the difference-maker.

TeamSeasonEPL MatchesEPL GoalsEuropean
Competition Matches
Competition Goals
Total MatchesTotal Goals
Manchester City2015-16268403514
Manchester City2016-1720442297
Leicester City2017–1821300288
Leicester City2018–1930100352
Leicester City2019-20205002610
Leicester City2020–212010733317