By Ebenezer Bajela
Just when Wilfred Ndidi’s career at Leicester City looked to be over, the Nigeria international has found a way to turn his fortune around and is now one of the most important players at the King Power Stadium, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Ndidi’s bright start to the season has seen him nominated for the PFA Championship Fans’ Player of The Month award for September for Leicester City.
After 14 games in all competitions this season, Ndidi has contributed to seven goals for the Foxes. Only Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (eight) has had a hand in more goals than the Nigerian, something nobody would have thought that could be true a few months ago.
Against Stoke City last Saturday, the midfielder was on the pitch for 13 minutes plus injury time during Leicester City’s 2-0 win over the Potters and according to Leicester Mercury, no player had more shots than the Nigerian.
All three of his efforts were inches away from going in, with one blocked near the line, another deflected over, and one headed just wide.
With his fourth attempt, he set up Jamie Vardy to grab his third assist in three Championship games.
The 26-year-old equally won the penalty that earned Leicester a victory against Bristol.
In any other season, this would have been unusual for a player who has made his name at the other end of the pitch.
Since picking up an injury towards the end of the season three years ago, the highly-rated midfielder had been a shadow of himself.
In the two seasons leading up to City’s relegation from the Premier League, most players suffered a drop in form, but perhaps none as starkly as Ndidi. City’s defence looked so vulnerable in part because Ndidi was no longer protecting them well. The number of tackles and interceptions he was making fell through the floor.
Last term, Ndidi experienced his worst moment when he made 27 appearances – 19 starts and eight substitutes – and was neither able to score a goal nor provide an assist as Leicester got relegated to the Championship.
The 2021/22 campaign wasn’t any better as the Super Eagles midfielder had only three-goal contributions (two goals and one assist) in 31 appearances across all competitions.
Ndidi’s best goal contribution ratio since joining Leicester was in the 2017/18 and 2020/21 seasons where he scored a goal and had four assists in both campaigns.
However, the Lagos-born footballer’s best outing was in the 2016/17 season when he scored six goals and had one assist in 57 games.
This season, with just 14 games played, he has equalled his all-time best goal contributions, a performance that proved that the Nigerian is indeed back to his very best and the reason why he was one of the most sought after midfielders three years ago.
For a player who was deemed surplus to the team and was almost sent out on loan, Ndidi is one of only two players, along with Dewsbury-Hall, to have featured in every match for the Foxes this term.
His tally of three goals – two in the Carabao Cup and one in the Championship – matches his best-scoring season for the club.
In 2020, Spanish giants Barcelona considered Ndidi as a longtime replacement for Sergio Busquets, who left the club last transfer window.
The Catalans are, however, back for the Nigerian following his eye-popping displays and are keen on signing him in 2024 when his contract with the Foxes expire.
For so long, Leicester had relied on Ndidi, they often ventured forward and took risks because they had the Nigerian behind them to bail them out.
When he stopped providing security, not only did City’s defence look more vulnerable, their attackers became scared to be inventive in case they set up counters for the opposition.
That’s a lot of pressure on Ndidi’s shoulders.
Watching Ndidi now, it feels like a weight has been lifted and the player is indeed back to his best.