By the end of last season, there would barely have been a Leicester supporter that could be critical of Esteban Cambiasso.
Having previously won La Liga with Real Madrid and five Italian titles with Inter Milan, alongside a Champions League, it would have been easy to assume that the Argentine veteran would have found it difficult to truly get up for the fight of a relegation battle in the twilight years of his career.
Instead, the 34-year-old was arguably Leicester’s best player in the final third of the season, as the club took 22 points from Cambiasso’s final nine league appearances to complete the most unlikely of great escapes.
His attitude, dedication and work rate were second to none, while it was obvious that his range of passing and speed of footballing brain were ahead of everyone else in the squad.
He comfortably played more passes than any other Foxes midfielder, had more touches in the half of the opposition, had the best shot-to-goal conversion rate, made more tackles and interceptions and recovered possession most frequently.
Cambiasso’ decision to turn down a new contract at the King Power Stadium leaves new manager Claudio Ranieri with a big hole to fill, although he is in talks with another midfielder that has plenty of big-game experience and would be expected to join a larger club than Leicester.
Gokhan Inler is three years younger than Cambiasso, but has spent the past four seasons at Italian giants Napoli and represented Switzerland at the two most recent World Cups.
Inler isn’t a like-for-like replacement, but his ability to maintain possession and ensure a shape and structure remains to a team’s play from the base of the midfield would aid Leicester.
Only Crystal Palace played fewer successful passes than the Foxes last season.
However, it would be wrong to limit Inler’s role to that of a disciplined holding midfielder that recycles possession. He does have energy in his game, but is unlikely to influence play in the same manner as Cambiasso in the final third.
Still, a signing of Inler’s stature would give the feeling that Leicester are punching above their weight again. Whether they sign him or not could come down to the length of contract they are prepared to offer.
A fee of around £3 million has reportedly already been agreed with Napoli, but nothing as yet with the player. If Leicester can put a three-year deal on the table, this may be enough to swing the pendulum in their favour over other interested parties Watford and Besiktas.