By the time he has climbed every mountain at Leicester City, I believe Brendan Rodgers will be ready to manage one of Europe’s giants – or take on an international job.
A year ago this week, Rodgers was the architect of a record 9-0 away win at Southampton.
And amid the excitement of Everton and Aston Villa’s flying starts, Liverpool’s eventful defence of the title and Manchester City’s patchy results, one familiar name has risen towards the Premier League summit, just a point off the lead.
Leicester were disappointed to finish outside the top four in July, after spending virtually the whole season in the Champions League places, but their high orbit was obviously no fluke.
Already this term, Rodgers has gone to the Etihad and destroyed City.
He’s gone to the Emirates and outsmarted Arsenal. And Leicester look like real contenders in the Europa League.
I can’t wait for their game at Leeds on Monday night – the clash between Marcelo Bielsa and Rodgers, two of the game’s most progressive coaches, is potentially a treat.
People talk about the ‘Big Six’ in English football as if it’s a closed shop, mainly due to their financial power.
But after winning the title in 2016, and finishing fifth this year (when it could easily have been third), perhaps Leicester belong in the Big Six by right, if Rodgers can deliver another top-six finish this season.
If they finish 1st, 5th and maybe 6th in the space of five years, surely that consistency is enough for them to be considered one of English football’s leading powers on the pitch?
Along with broadcaster Matthew Syed, I have had the privilege of doing a podcast with Rodgers – for release at a later date – which gave me a brilliant insight into his coaching methods.
And when Leicester beat AEK Athens in Greece on Thursday night, I could hear Rodgers putting his philosophy into action on the touchline.
He even contributed directly to Jamie Vardy’s opener from the penalty spot, telling James Maddison where to receive the ball before he slipped last season’s Golden Boot winner into the box with the telling pass.
Where the title-winning side was direct, and looked to hit Vardy on the shoulder of the last defender, Rodgers’ team offers more invention in the final third.
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Instead of Danny Drinkwater, or the full-backs, looking to hit Vardy with long-range passes, Maddison is now picking the lock with short passes into the path of his shorter, darting runs.
When you look at the quality of players Leicester have sold since they won the title – Harry Maguire, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Ben Chilwell, worth almost £200million for that quartet alone – you could be forgiven for thinking they would fall away.
But their replacements come in and their value soars: Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Wesley Fofana, Caglar Soyuncu, Ricardo Pereira and James Justin have all looked the part.
That is a compliment to Rodgers’ coaching and, you might laugh at me for saying this, but I believe he is one of the great tactical minds in the game.
He has already managed two massive clubs at Liverpool and Celtic, leading one to within an inch of the title and the other to the brink of the ‘Treble Treble’ in Scotland.
If he leads Leicester to another top-six finish – and I think they could go a long way in the Europa League this season – logically his next step would be to coach one of the giants on the continent.
And I see no reason why he should not be seriously considered as a future England manager… or, dare I suggest it, as Pep Guardiola’s successor at Manchester City, whenever that job becomes vacant.
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