The departure of Brendan Rodgers from Leicester City marks the end of a tumultuous period for both the club and the manager. Rodgers arrived at the Foxes in February 2019, after an impressive tenure at Celtic where he won all seven domestic trophies available. He was expected to bring his trademark attacking football to the King Power Stadium and, for a time, he did just that. The high point of his time at Leicester was their first FA Cup victory, when they beat Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley in May 2021.
However, Leicester’s fortunes have been in decline since then. Saturday’s last-minute defeat at Crystal Palace, now under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, was the final straw for the owners who saw the spectre of relegation come into even sharper view. With six league games without a win, the board had no choice but to act in the same manner as fellow strugglers Everton, Leeds United and Southampton by wielding the axe.
Rodgers deserves credit for his FA Cup success but his time at Leicester will also be defined by two devastating final days of Premier League seasons. On the surface, finishing fifth in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 seemed like fine achievements but the fact Leicester missed out on Champions League football on both occasions due to losses to Manchester United and Tottenham meant bitter disappointment. The FA Cup win allowed the 2021 season to be painted in a glorious light, but it could also be argued that the loss to Spurs was the beginning of the end for Rodgers and Leicester City.
These were savage blows as Leicester not only lost out on Champions League football but also the riches that came with it, forcing the owners and chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha to pull in the purse strings to ensure they did not fall foul of Financial Fair Play rules. Leicester reached the semi-finals of the inaugural Europa Conference League last season but they faded amid inconsistency in the league, finishing eighth. This season has seen Rodgers unable to revamp his squad, influential title-winning keeper Kasper Schmeichel leaving for Nice and time finally catching up with talismanic 36-year-old striker Jamie Vardy.
There were question marks over the club’s recruitment under Rodgers and they suffered a blow in the summer when one of his biggest successes – Wesley Fofana – moved to Chelsea for an initial £70m fee on the final day of the transfer window. Harry Souttar, Victor Kristiansen and Tete came in at a cost of £30m in January but Rodgers could not fashion a consistent upturn and Leicester’s graph has only been heading in one direction lately. The FA Cup fifth-round loss at home to Championship side Blackburn Rovers was damaging for Rodgers and Leicester and, with 10 league games to go, he has paid the price.
This is a desperate personal setback for Rodgers who had rebuilt his reputation at Celtic before angering many fans by leaving to move back to the Premier League. He was linked with a variety of jobs from Arsenal to Spurs and even Manchester United, and was touted in some quarters as having the credentials to manage at international level, with England mentioned.
Now, Leicester City must decide their next move while Rodgers takes stock and ponders his long-term prospects. He may be open to working abroad, as contemporary Roberto Martinez has done with Belgium then Portugal, and he will feel he is at least the equal of Martinez in terms of stature, ability and successes. For now though, Rodgers’ time at Leicester has come to an end.