Jamie Vardy once almost quit football to embark on a new life in the sunnier climes of Ibiza but now happily admits “thank God I didn’t”.
On Saturday, Vardy will make history as the first player to have featured in every round of the FA Cup from the first preliminary round to the final when Leicester City face off against Chelsea in the Wembley showpiece.
But things could have been very different for Vardy, whose rise from non-league football to Premier League star and England international (albeit he is now retired from the Three Lions) is well documented.
Vardy made a £1million switch to the King Power Stadium from Fleetwood Town ahead of the 2012-13 season, back when the Foxes were playing in the Championship.
He managed just four goals and only 17 starts in the second tier during that first campaign, leaving Vardy questioning his future in the game.
Former team-mate Ben Marshall revealed earlier this year on an episode of popular UK podcast ‘Undr the Cosh’ how Vardy had planned to hang up the boots early and head to party town Ibiza.
Vardy spoke about that time in his life and how the confidence of former manager Nigel Pearson helped to convince him to stick at it.
“Moving to Ibiza felt a good idea at the time,” he told the Daily Mail. “It felt a really good idea. Thank God I didn’t.
“It was one of those things. I’d never been in that environment – playing in the Championship, struggling, the performances and the goals not coming and it does make you think.
“I had a chat with Nigel Pearson at one point and I was trying to get him to loan me back to Fleetwood, just because I’d had success there. He said ‘listen, you’re good enough, just knuckle down, you can play a lot higher’.
“At that stage, I knew he believed in me and after that, it all clicked together. It was a learning curve. The big jump in standard took a bit of time getting used to and then the season after we got promoted.”
Vardy was vindicated in his decision, helping Leicester to the Premier League and he now has 116 top-flight goals.
His 24 in the 2015-16 campaign fired Leicester to a famous title triumph and Champions League football in the following season.
Leicester have not been back at Europe’s top table since, though they are third in the standings with just two games to play under Brendan Rodgers this term, and have the cup final against Chelsea to play.
Vardy pondered whether the unexpected title win came too soon for the Foxes.
“Winning the league probably set us back a bit because it wasn’t supposed to happen so we probably weren’t ready for it, on and off the field,” he added.
“I couldn’t see any of this happening when I signed but it’s where the club wanted to go and what they wanted to achieve.
“The owners were brilliant and always wanted to go up and up, and keep progressing. If you look at the nine years since I’ve been here that’s all it’s ever done. It’s carried on progressing.”