Leicester City owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha has revealed that he had reservations about Jamie Vardy before signing the Englishman back in 2012 from League One side Fleetwood Town.
The 29-year-old paid back the owner’s faith this season by scoring 22 goals in their title-winning campaign while also setting a new record by scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League matches.
While Vardy is now undoubtedly a hot commodity on the footballing market, Srivaddhanaprabha’s hesitation to sign him just four years ago highlights just how far he has come.
“I actually questioned the signing at the first.
“I asked Nigel Pearson and head scout Steve Walsh about this guy, checking the report for a week, and started feeling this could be okay, but I have to answer those supporters… ‘how come we bought a non-league player for £1million?’ It could turn out that I’m the dumbest club owner in the world for them.”
Naturally the Thai owner had his own stakeholders to please and signing what could potentially be a flop for such a hefty fee could come back to hurt him.
“So I asked both, if I have a transfer budget of only £1million for the next season, who would you buy? And they say ‘Vardy’. Then I said ‘Go’.
“All the fans were outraged. Some just called to say ‘Are you nuts? Why spend this much on a non-league player?'”
“Back then, I thought he doesn’t even have what it takes to play in EPL. The day we bought him, he came to me and said ‘thank you for changing my life’.”
Following a successful two seasons with the club, Vardy was offered a contract extension as the club prepared for the treacherous journey into the top flight of English football.
“When we extended his contract, the day we were promoted to the Premier League, I remember that he came to me, sentimentally saying he will never forget how we invested in him [and how] he’ll do everything to bring success to the club, to get call-ups for England,” he said.
“I looked into his face, and asked him “What? England call ups? Are you out of your mind?’ He said ‘we’ll see. One day I’ll play for England’.”
Vardy is on the shortlist of strikers for Roy Hodgson’s English squad set to compete at Euro 2016 and will play host to a number of European teams next year when the Champions League visits the King Power Stadium.
It still hasn’t quite sunk in.