Academy: One new young Fox with many more to come

The second part of this weekly column, exclusive to VAVEL, looks in further depth at the large recruitment drive currently taking place at Leicester City, as the club prepare for the UEFA Youth League.

Academy: One new young Fox with many more to come
Michael Cain got on the scoresheet for Leicester City Under-21s against Everton on Monday night, but it wasn't enough as the Toffees won the game 3-1. | Photo: Plumb Images.

The past week has been a busy one for the academy staff at Leicester City, with the Under-21s in action away to Everton and a new scholar in the club's ranks.

Steve Beaglehole's Under-21 side visited Goodison Park on Monday night, for their penultimate fixture of the season against Everton. Central midfielder Michael Cain got himself on the scoresheet, but it wasn't enough as the Foxes fell to a 3-1 defeat courtesy of a Kieran Dowell hat-trick.

Decision time

Seven Under-21 players were released in the week, including 19-year-old winger Andre Olukanmi, who was named on the first team bench for the Capital One cup clash against Bury earlier in the season.

Andre Olukanmi is joined by six other Under-21s released by Leicester City. | Photo: Plumb Images.
Andre Olukanmi is joined by six other Under-21s released by Leicester City. | Photo: Plumb Images.

Joining him on the released list are Max Smith-Varnam, Conor Anderson, Ryan Watson, Kyle Bailey, Aaron Hassall and Keenan King. 18 year-old Brandon Fox has signed a contract extension until January 2017, following an injury that has kept him on the sidelines during the last few weeks.

With no Under-18s game this past weekend, the club invited 11 trialists to the Belvoir Drive training ground for an Under-17 friendly. Five of those players have been confirmed as Romanian goalkeeper Andrei Voican, ex-Chelsea midfielder Rio Dasilva, his EDSV Academy team mate Kayne James-Thompson, Reading striker Jordan Greenidge and ex-Fulham forward Luai Suliman.

A new signing

One player that has put pen to paper ahead of next season is 16-year-old left back Lewis Thompson, who was not offered a scholarship at Manchester United. The England Under-16 international has signed a two-year scholarship with Leicester City, meaning he will go into the Under-18 squad next season. Another player who could be joining him is fellow 16-year-old Alexander Isak, who has recently broken into the first team at Swedish top flight club AIK.

Leicester City's Head of 17-21 Recruitment David Johnson, who featured in this column last week, was pictured with Isak's agent during AIK's 2-1 victory against Elfsborg earlier this week. Isak was on the scoresheet for AIK, and Swedish media are reporting that contract negotiations are close to being finalised between Leicester City and the player.

The club's new intake of scholars is yet to be officially confirmed, and a source says that Leicester have postponed this announcement until the start of next season.

David Johnson pictured with the agent of AIK striker Alexander Isak, 16. | Photo: Johanna Lundberg / BILDBYRÅN
David Johnson pictured with the agent of AIK striker Alexander Isak, 16. | Photo: Johanna Lundberg / BILDBYRÅN

Two young wingers flying in?

Now we turn our attentions to two 17-year-old international wingers that have interested Leicester City in recent weeks. The first of those is Serge Atakayi. In 2013, the Congolese winger - who is also eligible for Finland - signed for top-flight club FF Jaro. He made two appearances for Finland's Under-15 side, which led to trials for Middlesbrough and Fulham. Atakayi is now a member of the club's first team squad.

The second winger in question is Reza Shekari, an Iranian Under-23 international who plays for Zob Ahan, where he is contracted until 2018. Leicester's trial request for the 17-year-old was blocked by Zob Ahan's Head Coach, Yahya Golmohammadi, due to the importance of his team's remaining fixtures this season. However, it is understood that Shekari will be allowed to travel to the East Midlands this summer.

The Guardian listed him in their '50 of the best young talents in world football' piece last year, with Guardian journalist John Duerden writing that "[Shekari] is seen as a more offensive successor to the legend that is Javad Nekounam" - a player who was capped more than 150 times for Iran, and 174 times for Osasuna in La Liga during the peak of his career.

17-year-old winger Serge Atakayi pictured during his recent trial with Leicester City. | Photo: Serge Atakayi.
17-year-old winger Serge Atakayi pictured during his recent trial with Leicester City. | Photo: Serge Atakayi.

Last games of the season

The clubs Under-18 and Under-21 sides both have one game remaining this season. The Under-18s (who play simultaneously with the Under-16s) travel to Aston Villa this weekend, and will look to cap off their season with a fine display.

The Under-21s meanwhile, have a massive game coming up. The young Foxes face Chelsea at King Power Stadium on Thursday 12 May, and they need a win to remain in the top division of Under-21 football. The game will kick off at 11:30am.

Some of the younger players in the Under-21s will then turn their attentions to the Hong Kong Soccer-7s tournament, which Leicester City have competed in for the past four years. They will be joined at the tournament by fellow English clubs West Ham, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Aston Villa - as well as several teams from around Asia.

Leicester City Hong Kong Soccer Sevens Squad:

Daniel Iversen; Darnell Johnson, Elliott Moore; Matt Miles, Hamza Choudhury, Daniel Rowe, Harvey Barnes; Layton Ndukwu, Kairo Mitchell, Admiral Muskwe.