By Balogun Rilwan Adetayo

Patrick Vieira, the leggy, Arsenal and Les Bleus legend is one of the best defensive midfielders to have graced the round leather game. Blessed with silky touches and an ability to read an opposition’s movement very fast and accurately, his ability to attack and score crucial goals were marvelous throughout his days at Arsenal. He possesses a witty ability to lead and adequately understands the first duty of a defensive midfield player which is to act as a screen for the defence, unlike many modern defensive midfielders who take pride in their attacking forays- talk about the rapid evolution of the round leather game and positional responsibilities.

Many players have been compared to the former Juventus and Inter Milan midfielder but Abou Diaby seems most similar with his stature and style of play. The injury-ravaged Olympic Marseille midfielder has an edge with his ability to glide through opposition players with his silkier piece of skills. Recently, only one man comes to mind when the previous performances of the former French international is hit on a video replay, the man is Wilfred Ndidi.

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Ndidi represents a player whose journey has not been an easy one. Rising from the crucibles of surviving in a very imbalanced and highly competitive football environment like Nigeria’s, his rise over the past few years has been noteworthy. From being dropped from the victorious 2013 Nigerian U-17 team, the Golden Eaglets over age reasons and to playing at the 2013 and 2015 U-20 World Cups, Ndidi’s development has been highly commendable.

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Converted from a centre half to a midfield player, he has settled in so comfortably, though he showed flashes of his brilliance in the central defense, his midfield sojourns truly brings out the promise in his game, after all, he was a ball-playing defender before the conversion. That he played at right-back for the Super Eagles in the game against Zambia in Ndola has further reiterated the immense potentials in the former Nath Boys of Lagos midfielder.

Leicester City lost Kante to Chelsea in the summer transfer and have found it extremely difficult to replace him and find a player close to having his abilities. His partnership with Daniel Drinkwater last season was important to Leicester’s magical title-winning season and now at Chelsea, he is arguably the most important footballer in the Premier League after showing largely at Stamford Bridge, the reason why Leicester played with such dominance the last time out. Kante will never be replaced at Leicester; Amartey tried to but he was a different model of a midfield player and Namphalis Mendy never got fit to do his job and this triggered former manager, Claudio Ranieri’s interest in the former Genk midfielder, Ndidi. His presence in Leicester’s midfield has been great and he’s improving game by game, showing similar awesome qualities that made Patrick Vieira such a dignifying and awesome presence in the Arsenal midfield of the great years.

With Ranieri facing the sack, Craig Shakespeare’s signing as the manager till the end of the season has only ensured Ndidi’s place in the team stays largely not threatened. His form has improved recently and has weighted on the team’s general performance- bringing others into play, intercepting and tackling as hard as possible as he gently settles in a difficult league as the Premier League. Against Sevilla, Ndidi completed 92% of his passes, a figure that bespokes his improvement in his once unconvincing passing abilities and which shows why Leicester qualified for the quarter finals in such historical fashion.

It will take a lot of hard work for Ndidi to be at Viera’s level as he continues his growth on the English game but if any player is capable of such with his height also almost as imposing as the Frenchman, he will turn fans on and win some crucial games for Leicester by doing his job admirably. Already, he has shown a snippet of his eyes for the spectacular with his beautiful winning goal against Derby County in the 4th round of the F.A Cup, many more great displays is expected from the lanky midfielder. It is a tough journey to the top but his rise speaks of a man who is stopping at nothing to reach the apex of his abilities. In the meantime, we wish him the very best of luck in his endeavours.

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