The Super Eagles star was once dropped from Nigeria’s U-17 squad but has moved on to become one of the top defensive midfielders in the world.
Wilfred Ndidi’s career has been on a quantum leap since he first started with Lagos based football outfit, Nath Boys academy.
The 23-year-old who defied his father’s orders to play football is a man in high demand and has been linked with a host of top clubs across Europe.
Like many other Nigerian footballers, Ndidi had a humble beginning while growing up in Ikeja, Lagos state capital.
A son of a military man, Ndidi grew up in Ikeja cantonment, and like most Nigerian parents, his father wanted him to go to school and get an education.
But the Nigeria international knew football was the way for him, so he went against his father’s wishes by registering with Nath Boy’s Academy.
It was during his time at Nath Academy that his talents were spotted by foreign scouts who then took him for a trial at Genk.
After a year, he signed a contract with the Belgian side, and that was where the success story began. He spent just two years with The Smurfs before Leicester paid €17.60m to bring him to England in January 2017.
Despite joining midway through the season, Ndidi’s performance was enough to earn him the club’s young player of the season. He’ll pick up the same award in his first full season at the club.
While he was always improving, he’s taken his performance to a higher level this season, and that has gotten the attention of top clubs.
Brendan Rodgers side currently sit in third place on the Premier League table, but it won’t be an overstatement if one says that’s down to Ndidi’s performances.
Jamie Vardy is the club’s highest goalscorer while Maddison is the creative outlet, but Ndidi is the gel that holds the team together.
He stops opposition attacking play easily and helps the team’s transition from defence to attack. This season, no midfielder has won more tackles(92) and made most interceptions (61) than Ndidi in the Premier League.
To show Ndidi’s importance this season, the Foxes won just one (FA Cup win over Brentford) game during the period he was out due to knee injury.
His form this season has seen him linked with a move away from the King Power Stadium with clubs like Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Arsenal and Manchester United reportedly interested in his services.
While many feel he should continue his development under Brendan Rodgers, it’s also important to note that Ndidi is ready for a big move.
In a previous report, we highlighted why he’s not on the radar of big clubs, but his exploits this campaign has shown that there may not be a better time to move than now.
Although he’s under the right manager in the person of Brendan Rodgers, a move to a bigger club will elevate him to world-class level and also guarantee him the success every player want.
Ndidi is into his third year at Leicester, but the closest he has gotten in terms of winning a trophy is a carabao cup semi-final loss to Aston Villa.
And with the potential take over Newcastle, the competition in England keeps getting bigger, and that makes it harder for Leicester to win a silverware.
A move to one of the top sides interested in his services will not only guarantee him trophies but also make him a global star.
However, while Ndidi has shown he’s ready for a move to a bigger club, there’s still room for improvements in his game.
Ndidi’s strongest strength is stopping opposition’s play and getting into tackles, but over the years, football has evolved, and the role of a defensive midfielder is not just stopping attacks, but also helping in a team’s transition play.
Football is now more intelligent play and speed with less focus on strength. While Ndidi has shown he does not lack in that department, he’ll need to do more at a club like Barcelona and PSG.
At Leicester, he’s able to get that number of tackles and interceptions because teams are not afraid to take the game to the Foxes. But in a club like Juventus, Barcelona or PSG where there’s a sense of fear from the opposition, Ndidi will have more of the ball.
His ball moving ability needs to improve, while he also needs to be fast in his decision making. Although he’s shown he’s not a player afraid to call for the ball, Ndidi’s shortcoming on the ball was exposed in Leicester’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea this season.
After receiving the ball on the edge of the area, the former Genk man was slow in his decision making, and that allowed Mason Mount to capitalise and score the opener for Chelsea.
While he would later score the equaliser, his error in the build-up to Chelsea goal shows the Nigeria international needs to work on his composure and ball movement ability.
His passing distribution also needs more work even though that’s not his job. But at a possession-based club, it will come handy.
The Nigeria international is still young and has always shown he’s always ready to learn. Ndidi is already one of the best defensive midfielders, but he can elevate himself as the top player in his position if he works on the little details missing in his game.