Leicester City manager Claude Puel has warned that Nigeria forward Kelechi Iheanacho must keep improving to stake his place at the club.
The Nigerian, who was bought in the summer from Manchester City for £25m, has yet to live up to his price tag. He has scored just once since arriving from Manchester City.
Iheanacho’s national teammate Wilfred Ndidi is a regular at the former English premier league champions since joining them from Belgian side Genk for £17m in January.
The 21-year-old Iheanacho has made only five EPL appearances for the Foxes this season and has yet to score any goal in the league – Iheanacho has started the five matches from the bench.
The 2013 UAE U-17 World Cup Golden Ball winner was givenhis first start of the season against his former club in the League Cup quarter-final during the week.
He led the attack while Shinji Okazaki was behind him feeding him the passes. The coach however replaced him with Jamie Vardy in the second half, who threatened the City defence better than Iheanacho did.
But Puel praised Iheanacho’s display in the match, saying that with the player’s youthfulness he believes he has the potential to improve.
Puel said he is willing to be patient to see the best of forward, insisting Iheanacho must improve to cement a regular place at the club.
“(Iheanacho) tried, he shoots on target. He had a good opportunity in the first half. He gave his best. He’s a young player; he needs to continue to work to improve,” Puel told Leicester Mercury on Friday
“It was important to see him – to give him game-time. It was a good opportunity for him and other players. I was happy with the squad because it was a good level of quality on the pitch and it was a good response after our game against Crystal Palace.”
Lack of playing time has hampered Iheanacho from replicating his scoring form at Manchester City at Leicester.
Iheanacho’s record at Leicester stands at one goal in 393 minuteswhich is a long way shy of City average, which was one goal every 100 minutes.
Despite this, Puel appears to favour him ahead of other forwards in the team after Vardy and Okazaki. Other forwards such as Leo Ulloa, Islam Slimani and Iheanacho’s fellow Nigerian Ahmed Musa, appear to be out of favour.
With the coach complaining of having too many forwards to deal with at the club, it is expected that Leicester will try to offload some of their attackers in January.
But the coach believes that Iheanacho is quite different from his other forwards, who are struggling to get regular playing time.
“I have a good feeling with the squad. Kele, like others players, like Slimani, like Musa, they are different players. It’s important for them and for the squad,” Puel said.
“We have a lot of players sometimes in the same position and it’s difficult to manage this. It’s important to keep the positive attitude, for Kele it’s the same thing.”
Meanwhile, Ndidi has been named in lists of the best footballers in 2017 compiled by Sky Sports.
Ndidi is ranked 65th in the world by Skysports based on calculations using their ‘Power Rankings’, while former PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez is 71st