Champion League

Maresca could replace Vardy with a sensational academy star

Leicester City may have strengthened well this summer as they gear up for a charge towards promotion, but their most impressive investment was improving the infrastructure of their academy.

In 2020, the Foxes unveiled their stunning £100m training complex, boasting 21 training areas, 14 full-size training pitches and a 499-seater pitch for youth team matches.

The purpose of this investment is to discover the biggest young talents and unearth the next Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, who are the most successful graduates from the academy in recent years, with the former two earning big money moves to Chelsea and Newcastle while Dewsbury-Hall is currently a vital cog in Enzo Maresca’s winning machine.

Kasey McAteer was the latest academy star to burst onto the scene this season, becoming a revelation down the right wing for the Foxes, scoring three goals in four Championship appearances.

While McAteer is now one of the most exciting young prospects in the second tier, there is another who is looking to follow in his footsteps and that is forward Amani Richards.

Who is Amani Richards?

Richards may be just 18-years-old, but he is already making a name for himself in the Midlands for his impressive attacking displays in the youth sides.

The highly-rated youngster was poached from Arsenal’s youth academy in January 2022 and the Gunners could live to rue the decision to let him go.

Operating down the right flank or as a striker, Richards became one of the most tantalising young prospects in the U18s setup, chalking up an eye-watering 24 goal contributions in 36 appearances and has since translated that form into the U2’s after making the step-up this season.

He even came back to haunt his old club in their U18 meeting with Arsenal in March, scoring both goals for the Foxes in a 2-1 win as scouts from Newcastle and Brentford gazed their eyes on the sensational teen, and would have been in awe of his talents.

The teenage prodigy is garnering attention from a whole host of clubs and that attention is only going to be heightened after beginning his U21 campaign with one goal and three assists in his first four appearances.

With Leicester keen to extend his contract which currently expires in 2024, he’s a player they can ill afford to let go given the high ceiling he possesses.

Who could Richards replace at Leicester?

Leicester’s attacking output has largely come from wide areas this season with wingers McAteer and Stephy Mavididi scoring five goals between them, shouldering the responsibility in place of the misfiring Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho.

While Vardy opened the scoring against Southampton inside 21 seconds, that was his first Championship goal of the season and with the Englishman seeing his output decline rapidly in recent years, Maresca will need someone to replace him in the near future.

The 36-year-old only mustered up three goals in the top flight last term, which is a barometer for how quickly he’s dropped from the peak of his powers, having reached double digits for goals in eight of the last nine seasons prior, winning the Golden Boot in the 2019/20 season.

With Vardy reaching the tail end of his career, someone has to deliver consistent returns in his place and as evidenced by the performances of Iheanacho this season, he isn’t likely to produce the goals that Leicester need.

Instead, Maresca could turn to his academy and unearth the exciting and skilful Richards, providing his side with the baptism of fire they need in a similar vein to McAteer.



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