On the eve of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, Jamie Vardy reiterated his desire to stay a Foxes player beyond the two years left on his existing deal at the King Power Stadium.
Although he will be 36, nearly 37, by the time his contract expires in the summer of 2023, Vardy wants to play at Leicester and the highest level “for as long as possible”. However, we delve deeper into just how much longer the former England international has got left at the Premier League top table.
Vardy turned 35 at the start of the year and with that milestone he sustained a severe hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for up to eight weeks. He had complained of a tightness in his hamstring following City’s loss to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup.
However, despite being rested for the Foxes’ Boxing Day league encounter with Manchester City, he sustained the tear during Leicester’s impressive victory over Liverpool just a few days later.
It’s been confirmed that Vardy won’t require surgery to repair the hamstring, but the tear is more serious than initially feared. When quizzed about the extent of the problem, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed the tear is at the “higher end of his hamstring”.
Either way, hamstring injuries are by no means good news for strikers like Vardy that rely heavily on their burst of acceleration and consistent pace to gain half-a-yard on defenders.
Could Vardy’s Career Go the Way of Michael Owen’s?
You only have to look at the decline of Michael Owen’s career to prove that hamstring issues can plague ‘speed demons’ for the rest of their time in professional football.
Owen was never the same after his hamstring problems. He even admitted years later that he was forced to play more gingerly for employers in the latter half of his career.
Vardy’s fitness record was largely exemplary in the first half of his time at the King Power Stadium. In fact, he didn’t register a single injury until that remarkable 2015/16 campaign, when Claudio Ranieri’s men achieved the impossible by winning the Premier League.
However, it’s worth noting that the injuries have started to pile up since the 2018/19 campaign. A string of groin problems kept him out for much of the winter months of this season. Meanwhile, he was forced to undergo groin surgery midway through the 2020/21 season.
This season’s hamstring problem is the first occurrence of issues with this part of Vardy’s body, which has enabled him to continue playing on the shoulder of the last defender. If he was to return and lose that extra half-a-yard on his sprints, it could be a very different ball game for him and Leicester.
Vardy’s been at the fulcrum of Brendan Rodgers’ counter-attacking approach, which combines high-tempo football with defensive solidity.
He took the bold decision to retire from international football in 2018 in a bid to concentrate solely on his club football. Although he said at the time he would never “shut the door completely” on his country. Despite that, England boss Gareth Southgate has been loathed to call him up since.
Vardy’s club football career has been brief compared with many other Premier League strikers. He only turned professional in 2011 when he signed from Halifax Town at big-spending Fleetwood Town that were working their way up the non-league pyramid. His seven-figure move from Fleetwood to Leicester in 2012 saw him finally make the ‘big time’ of the Football League.
Therefore, Vardy’s career at the highest level has only been for a decade or less. His body is likely to be fresher than most 35-year-old strikers that come through Premier League academies and undergo rigorous loan spells across the EFL and beyond.
Nevertheless, if you take the speed out of Vardy’s game, he could become cannon fodder for first-rate Premier League defenders that would simply play deeper and frustrate a player of Vardy’s attributes.
Although he is a good link-up man, dropping back as a deep-lying forward wouldn’t get the most out of his lethal finishing and composure in front of goal. When Vardy does call time on his professional career, he is likely to move out to New York.
He became co-owner of the Rochester Rhinos last year, who plan to return to competitive league action in the USL League One – the third tier of American football. One thing’s for sure, it will be a sad day for Leicester fans when Vardy’s not marauding in behind Premier League backlines.
By: Ben Jardine
Featured Image: @GabFoligno