Todd Boehly has become a figure of ridicule since buying Chelsea in May 2022, but even the biggest hater would admit the decision to send Cesare Casadei on loan to Leicester has been proven correct within half an hour of his club debut.
Signed last summer as Chelsea trawled the world for promising young footballers to add to their collection, Casadei made a handful of appearances in the Papa John’s before spending the second half of last season at Reading.
The Berkshire bonfire was an ill-fitting environment for such a graceful talent. Citing Nicolo Barella, Javier Zanetti and Federico Valverde as his sources of inspiration, it’s possible to see elements of all three in Casadei’s game.
Elegant on the ball, quick and off-the-ball movement that leaves opponents grasping at thin air in the manner of Severus Snape trying to catch Harry Potter out of bed, the 20-year-old has a burgeoning reputation.
Explaining the role he expects to play, Casadei said: “I’m a midfielder, here in England they say box-to-box – I’m this kind of player. I try to do both the defending and attacking as much as I can. I like to get in the box when I can. I like to score goals and help the team.”
And this summer has seen the Italy youth international claim the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the FIFA U20 World Cup as his nation reached the competition’s final.
Entering the season in confident mood, Casadei was now ready to kick on. A loan move to Leicester, the Championship promotion favourites expected to dominate possession, seemed a natural fit.
The second half of a deadlocked game against stubborn Cardiff seemed the perfect moment to introduce him. But few could’ve expected things to go quite this well.
With the scores level at 1-1 in the third minute of injury time, with Leicester on the verge of dropping their first points of the season, Casadei lurked as Jamie Vardy stumbled around the penalty area like a giraffe trying to find a lightswitch.
Limbs were flying as three Cardiff defenders attempted to dispossess Vardy, succeeding in creating a mini pile-on in the area. The ball squirmed its way to Casadei who blasted it into the net to make sure the limbs extended to three-quarters of the King Power.
Scoring a 93rd-minute winner on his debut? Somebody clearly has ice-cool Sangiovese running through their veins.
Casadei 92nd minute winner on his debut for Leicester. 💫 pic.twitter.com/7SkHNzxGkL
— Felix (@FelixJohnston_) August 19, 2023
“I feel really good,” Casadei commented in his first interview after moving to Leicester. “I’m really happy to be here. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get started.
“Obviously Leicester is a big team so I’m here to win and to do as well as possible to fight and to work hard for this team. I will do everything possible to help this team and to get the Club promoted to Leicester back to where they deserve to stay.
“I’ve been watching the Premier League for a long time, since I was a kid, so it’s a very good team. I supported Leicester when they won the league and I’m really excited to finally be here and play for this massive club.”
Working with Enzo Maresca’ was another reason the Italian has moved to the East Midlands. “I spoke with him a few times on the phone and I felt that he has a big energy and that’s a really good thing,” he said.
“I really love that and obviously he’s Italian so we can build a good relationship between us.
“He was a big impact on my decision to be here and I can’t wait to start improving with him and start playing. Of course, I saw the last two games in the Championship and I had a really good impression because they played really good football and they enjoyed their football when they had the ball.
“I’m really excited to play for this team because I like this kind of play and obviously they won both games and that’s what we need to do for the rest of the season, just keep winning game after game.”
One-hundred-and-five miles south, Boehly would’ve allowed himself a self-satisfied smile. For all the chaos under his leadership, the Chelsea owner has made a far-sighted decision to allow Casadei to develop his game away from the Stamford Bridge circus.
And who knows? Continue scoring clutch winners and the Italian may avoid becoming an FFP victim next summer.
By Michael Lee