That modest list of Turkish Foxes grew to three this week as the Club welcomed Cengiz Ünder to King Power Stadium and, if the 23-year-old can follow in the footsteps of Muzzy Izzet and Çağlar Söyüncü, he is likely to be welcomed with open arms by the Blue Army.
Following this week’s news concerning Ünder’s arrival in Leicester, LCFC.com reflects on the impacts both Izzet and Söyüncü – notable players of two eras – made at the Football Club…
Izzet featured for Turkey at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
When Muzzy Izzet signed for the Foxes, initially on loan in March 1996, manager Martin O’Neill was recovering from a disheartening start to life at Filbert Street by masterminding a late dash towards the First Division Play-Offs.
Izzet was joined by Steve Claridge and Neil Lennon as early arrivals during O’Neill’s tenure and the dynamic young Chelsea midfielder was quickly making his mark in Leicester.
His headed goal on the final day of the season – at Watford – in fact sealed the Club’s place in the top-six and a Wembley triumph over Crystal Palace, courtesy of Claridge’s shin, confirmed City’s promotion back to the Premier League.
Naturally, O’Neill looked to secure Izzet’s services permanently and, after an £800,000 fee was agreed with Chelsea, a vintage era for both the player and the Club gathered steam.
In all, Izzet helped Leicester secure four consecutive top-10 Premier League finishes – scoring a string of memorable and, at times, extraordinary, goals – while O’Neill’s men also lifted two League Cups, in 1997 and 2000, earning them a place in Europe on each occasion.
O’Neill would eventually depart, to join Celtic, at the turn of the millennium, but Izzet stayed when many others didn’t – even after representing Turkey in the FIFA World Cup Semi-Finals against Brazil in the summer of 2002.
When the Foxes suffered relegation, he remained yet again and was a key protagonist of City’s 2002/03 promotion-winning side, as Micky Adams’ men defied administration to mark their maiden season at their new stadium with a return to the Premier League.
Söyüncü is a star of the current Turkey side.
Like Muzzy Izzet, Çağlar Söyüncü has earned a cult status among the Club’s supporters since joining the Foxes from SC Freiburg in the summer of 2018.
Although initially limited in game time during his first campaign as a Fox, the speedy but powerful centre-back is now a mainstay in Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI.
Söyüncü plays with a swagger in City’s colours, often turning attackers inside out, as he calmly transitions play from an alarming defensive situation into an attacking opportunity.
Backed by a large following from his native Turkey, Söyüncü’s ability has quickly seen him develop a reputation as one of the most talented defenders in the Premier League, while he is also among the first names on the teamsheet for national team manager Şenol Güneş.
Throughout Söyüncü’s time at King Power Stadium, the 24-year-old centre-back had added 15 caps to his overall tally of 30 appearances for the Crescent-Stars – helping his country qualify for the 2020 UEFA European Championship, now set to take place next summer.
His first goal for the Foxes, meanwhile, came during an intrepid run of eight consecutive Premier League wins – a Club record – in a 2-0 success at Crystal Palace in November 2019.
Still in his early 20s, Söyüncü has potential to develop even further under Rodgers’ management, but is already an incredibly popular member of the squad among City’s supporters.
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