He was the starring light of a memorable Premier League season, inspiring unfancied Leicester City to a first-ever top-flight title.
Then came the England call-up – and subsequent goals – and inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the European Championship.
Now Jamie Vardy is closing in on a big-money move to Arsenal, the London side having met the forward’s release clause.
A deal is expected to be completed on Monday before the 29-year-old flies out to Chantilly with the rest of the England squad ahead of this month’s tournament.
But what are the pros and cons of Vardy moving to the Emirates?
We take a look at a move that could break a few thousand Foxes hearts and inspire hysteria among the Gunners support..
The forward only signed a contract extension at the King Power in February, reportedly doubling his £40,000-a-week earnings. Any move to London would inevitably increase his income further and provide an attractive prospect for a player turning 30 early next year.
For all Leicester’s heroics last season, they are a long way from being recognised as one of England’s leading clubs. Arsenal are a well-respected name, both here and abroad, and Vardy’s profile and image would only benefit from being associated with the North London side.
Team spirit was made up to be a key component of Leicester’s success, but playing in a squad with the likes of Andy King, Marcin Wasilewski and Jeff Schlupp can not really compare with sitting in a dressing room alongside the likes of Mesit Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere.
Yes, he got his chance at Leicester but that is usually the exception rather than the norm. It is sadly true that players from big clubs get more international recognition – witness the case of Mark Noble, for one – and any hopes Vardy may have of continuing his international career beyond this summer can only be boosted by a move to a club already boasting Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Theo Walcott, Calum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck as England internationals.
Chance of retaining the Premier League
Arsenal have famously not won the top-flight since 2003/04 but would certainly figure highly in most people’s tips for next season’s crown. The Gunners are widely available at 6-1, whereas you can get 25-1 on Leicester retaining their crown. A move to the Emirates would give Vardy more chance of adding to his Premier League winner’s medal.
Champions League football
Yes, Arsenal have also qualified automatically for next season’s competition, but Leicester are there as seeds. As such, they are more likely to have a favourable draw, avoiding the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Staying at the King Power could give Vardy a bigger chance in progressing past the group stages of the European Cup.
His public image is not as squeaky clean as sum, but he is still widely viewed in a postitive light by your average football fan. Moving to the Emirates and chasing the ‘big buck’ would be seen as a negative in a lot of eyes, doing away in one fell swoop with all the goodwill generated by his part in the Foxes’ title triumph. We British like our underdogs.
Big Fish, Little Pond
Apart from a certain Riyad Mahrez, Vardy was Leicester. His record-breaking run of goals before Christmas woke up the world to Leicester’s fairytale and placed him at the heat of it. He was the big fish in the proverbial pond. Move south to the Emirates and he would, as with England and his shifting to the left wing, find himself out of place and one of a number of stars. No more would he be the focal point of the team’s attack, no more would he be indulged by a manager oh-so-keen to forge a positive team spirit.
The selling of his marriage photos to a glossy magazine suggests the way Vardy wants to pitch himself – and a move to Arsenal would certainly open doors to certain aspects of the footballer’s lifestyle. It remains to be seen whether that would be a good thing – off-field temptations would increase and his on-pitch performanes may suffer.
Would Arsenal’s style of play suit him? The Gunners are known for their patient, attractive football, whereas Leicester were built around Vardy’s strengths, playing on the counter attack and playing long balls over the top and into channels for Vardy to run on to, who firing crosses in from the wing for him to convert. It is unlikely Arsene Wenger would shift his team around in a similar fashion and Vardy may have to adapt his game to get minutes. Recent experience with England, stationed out on the left wing at times and reduced to just nine touches against Portugal last week, would suggest this is not something he would benefit from.