Do Leicester City have a future star in South Africa's Khanya Leshabela?
It’s not everyday that we get to hear an African, never mind a South African player get signed up by one of the teams in the English premier league until recently. Youngster Khanya Leshabela recently signed his first ever professional contract, penning a three-and-a-half year deal with 2015/2016 Premier League champions, Leicester City.
Having left his home country as a child, the attacking midfielder joined the Foxes' academy in March 2013. Since then, Leshabela has slowly been progressing through the ranks at Leicester over the last couple of years, shining for the Foxes’ academy where his magnificent performances eventually caught the eye of U-23s manager Steve Beagkehole. It therefore came as no surprise when the youngster was promoted to the club’s U-23s this season after impressing at U-19 level across the course of 2017/18 while he also featured for the club in the 2016/17 UEFA Youth League. Most recently, Leshabela was on the brink of his much-awaited debut when he was named on the bench in the Carabao Cup against Southampton back in November 2018. His rapid development with the Foxes saw him called up to the first-team by manager Claude Puel when Leicester faced Southampton in the EFL Cup.
The dynamic youngster usually operates out wide on either flank, where he’s able to use his speed and trickery to blaze past defenders. However, he has also shown traits of versatility in his game by playing in other positions including the number-10 role as well as playing as a false nine. Commenting on his style of play, Leshabela alluded, "I would say I'm a midfielder that can operate anywhere across the midfield and I like to get on the ball and create things”.
In recent years it's been rare for a South African player to play in the English Premier League, largely due to difficulties in attaining a work permit. In late 2018, the youngster criticised the national team selectors for their lack of support in tracking his progress in England. It is said that Leshabela is very keen on representing his home country.
While Leshabela may not yet be a household name within the South African football circles, he has stamped his authority and his hard work has earned him the recognition he deserves. Having signed his new contract, all eyes will be on Leshabela to make his debut and become a success at the Foxes. One would think having experienced players like Jamie Vardy and support from his fellow African colleagues including Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho will help young Leshabela settle well at the club. Blessed with immense talent, it is only a matter of time before football lovers stand up and take notice of the 19-year-old. Remember the name Khanya Leshabela.