Fofana will not play if Chelsea interest becomes distraction, says Rodgers

Sport

Brendan Rodgers has said he would not hesitate to omit Wesley Fofana from his squad if he felt the defender was affected by Chelsea’s sustained transfer pursuit but made it clear the Frenchman has not submitted a transfer request. Leicester have rejected two bids from Chelsea and are expecting a third that could be worth more than £80m, which would make him the most expensive defender in the world. Leicester are reluctant to sell Fofana, who is thought to be keen on joining Chelsea.

Rodgers is keen to keep Fofana, with whom he has held numerous conversations since Chelsea’s interest has heightened. Leicester’s public stance is that Fofana is not for sale and they are determined not to lose the defender this window. However it may be difficult for Leicester, who need to offload players to strengthen, to turn down a record-breaking offer.

The Leicester manager acknowledged that the external noise surrounding the player could be destabilising. “Mentally he is fine, but as you can imagine for a 21-year-old with the spotlight on you, [the] talking about what you maybe can earn at another club, where you can play, it’s a challenge, that’s the honest answer. He’s been absolutely brilliant since his first day here.

“You have to remember these are very young guys. For some of them it’s the first time they’ve experienced these situations. There can always be disruption but the idea is to keep the group focused. The minute the window shuts it all ends but while we’re in this period it’s challenging.”

Asked whether he would leave Fofana out of his team to face Southampton on Saturday if the defender were not in the right frame of mind, Rodgers replied: “Yes, 100%. If the players aren’t totally focused and committed to the club and being here, or for whatever reason just aren’t in the right mindset, that won’t help us. We have to ensure everyone is really focused in order for us to play the best game we can. I will always assess that after the sessions.”

Fofana has shone since joining Leicester from Saint-Étienne two years ago and has impressed following his return from a leg fracture. Chelsea are keen to sign him to replace Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger, who left the club on free transfers this summer. “It’s a challenge for any player, in particular young one, but he knows he’s loved here and this is an important step for his career, being here at Leicester and having more development, but it’s natural when other clubs are interested in you because of your talent, and especially with the money that comes with that,” Rodgers said. “It certainly makes you think, that’s for sure.”