Jamie Vardy will be remembered as Leicester City’s greatest ever player, according to his former team-mate Andy King.
Vardy’s goals fired Leicester to an unforgettable Premier League title triumph in 2015-16, when he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and went on to play and score for England at Euro 2016.
While the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante went on to seek pastures new, Vardy remained as the Foxes’ talisman and on Saturday added the club’s first FA Cup to their maiden top-flight title when Youri Tielemans’ thunderbolt sunk Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.
The 34-year-old’s fairy tale ascent from non-league football has been well documented and, with 116 goals, he lies 19th on the Premier League’s all-time goalscorers list.
Vardy will have his eye on climbing a few more places yet, as he is under contract to Leicester until 2023. When the time comes for him to move on, Wales international King believes there will be a virtually impossible void to fill.
“Everyone wants to know what the secret is or what he’s like,” King told Stats Perform.
“But he has no secret over things which he does. You guys know that because he’s been telling everyone he drinks his coffee, drinks his Red Bull, he eats what he wants and then he goes out and scores two goals and runs around like a madman.
“What you see is what you get with him. Like with Wes [Morgan] and Kasper [Schmeichel], first and foremost he has great affection for the club, the people at the club and the owner.
“He’s such a good guy to have in the changing room and to have off the pitch as well.
“The hole is going to be massive when he leaves Leicester. I think he’s Leicester’s best ever player. And that’s before adding another trophy to the collection.
“He’ll be a hard one to try replace when Leicester have to do that at some point.”
On the other hand, Vardy’s goalscoring mantle has arguably already passed, with the veteran playing a supporting role to the prolific Kelechi Iheanacho.
Vardy’s 13 goals in the Premier League this term represent a joint-lowest return since he hit the same number in 2016-17, comfortably below the 23 he netted to win the Golden Boot last term.
But his nine assists represent a career best in the competition, matching his total from the past two years combined.
This can, in part, be attributed to a slightly altered role supporting Iheanacho in a 3-5-2 system – their lethal striker partnership taking Leicester to the brink of Champions League qualification, which can be secured in Tuesday’s rematch with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The former Manchester City striker scored 20 times in all competitions across his previous three seasons at the King Power Stadium but he has exploded into life this time around, with 18 to his name.
Thirteen of those have come in his past 13 matches and King believes the 24-year-old’s patience over the course of a lengthy acclimatisation process has been rewarded with more than just a new contract until 2024.
“When he first came in, he was in and out of the team,” he said. “It must be hard adapting from Man City to go into another team where you’re not going to get the chances laid on a plate for you and you’re not going to have the ball for 80 per cent of the game. You’ve got to learn to do the other stuff as well.
“Kel was a really honest guy, he was trying really hard to learn the system. To start with, Leicester played a 4-3-3 with only one striker and Vards is always going to play.
“They changed the system when Harvey Barnes got injured, which was a big loss because he was playing really well. I don’t know if Brendan said to him, ‘Look, I’m going to go to a 3-5-2 and you’re going to be my second striker, you know you’re going to play’.
“If that was the case, he certainly rewarded the manager because for the second half of the season he has been absolutely outstanding. He’s carrying Leicester at a moment to the top four, scoring goals when no one else was and his all-round play has always been good.
“Like, anyone when they’re playing with confidence and knowing they’re going to play the next game, it all falls into place. Strikers go on a hot streak and he’s certainly on one of those at the moment.”