Why Leicester City are not devastated by Enzo Maresca's Chelsea move

Enzo Maresca celebrates Leicester City's win over Sunderland
-Credit: (Image: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)


Losing the manager that has masterminded a promotion campaign feels like it should be devastating for a club. But the feeling around Leicester City as Enzo Maresca packs his bags and heads to Chelsea is merely one of mild disappointment.

Within the club, there is no time to mourn Maresca’s exit. They’ve a new manager to appoint and a survival bid to prepare for. But while supporters do have the space to explore their emotions around the Italian’s departure, saying goodbye won’t lead to a summer of sorrow.

That’s partly because, in most fans’ City-supporting lifetimes, the Maresca era is a very brief one. It’s not possible to feel truly connected to a manager who has not even been around for 12 months.

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But maybe City fans understood not to get too invested in Maresca either. It was apparent almost immediately, from the way the Italian conducted himself, from the style of play he preferred and the speed at which he introduced it, that he was destined for bigger things, whether in the Premier League or abroad. City were just Maresca’s first step on the ladder and most knew that.

Plus, despite City’s title triumph, there have been doubts around him. It was only eight weeks ago that City lost at Plymouth and a large portion of fans, maybe a majority, were calling for his head.

While the patient style of play, leading to drab patches in games, caused moans and groans in the first half of the season, it was Maresca’s stubbornness amid poor form that really brought out the boos. Maresca bluntly continued to have City play his way, even in matches where they were struggling, and that led to anger.

That lack of adaptability was a slight concern coming into the Premier League. City had just seen Burnley go up with over 100 points, try to play the same way in the top flight, and come down with a whimper. There is a feeling they will need to be more pragmatic to stay up and it wasn’t certain Maresca would deliver that.

The lack of anger over Maresca jumping ship so soon is perhaps because of the reality of City’s situation too. Yes, the grass isn’t always greener, but it probably is in this case. No fan blames Maresca for not wanting to deal with the probable points deduction heading City’s way, not least because the club didn’t warn him it was coming when he signed up. Plus, Chelsea are a top club, with financial might, and with a talented, improving, young squad.

When Maresca returns to the King Power Stadium in the away dugout, there may be a show of appreciation. Yes, City were favourites to win promotion. Their title win wasn’t against the odds. But being the best team on paper doesn’t always translate to being the best team on the pitch. Maresca at least made sure they managed that.

There is plenty to admire about his year in charge, not least the turnaround in the mood inside the club following a relegation nobody had anticipated. Lifting spirits was not an easy task.

Plus, he introduced a clear identity to the team’s play, and he coached and developed players too. For some, like Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Maresca worked on and improved their best qualities. For others, such as with Jannik Vestergaard and Wilfred Ndidi, he gave them a new lease of life. It was clear the players liked working under Maresca, and that only strengthens bonds throughout the whole club.

Maresca’s year in charge brought some great goals, some excellent performances, and some unforgettable nights, not least the victories over Southampton and Preston to wrap up promotion and the title. His encouragement of his players to celebrate hard with the fans and to value every three points created much more enjoyable matchday experiences, especially on the road.

It was also appreciated that Maresca wasn’t a yes man, and that he would publicly call out the club’s hierarchy and his own bosses to try to drive standards. It is those issues, particularly the lack of communication over finances and transfers, that may have made it easier for him to walk away.

But what City will miss most is the continuity. It is far from ideal to be heading into the Premier League at risk of a points deduction and with more financial regulations to have to work to comply with. Now they have the upheaval of a new manager coming in, one who is going to see the squad differently and who will need time to introduce their way of playing.

With all of the drama expected off the field this summer, Maresca at least offered stability on it. Now City won’t have that. That’s where the disappointment lies, that a very difficult task just became tougher.

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