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Brendan Rodgers: Leicester got the deal of the century by signing Jonny Evans for just £3.5m



United: Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers with Jonny Evans

United: Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers with Jonny Evans

Getty Images

United: Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers with Jonny Evans

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers has heaped praise on Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans and said he is an "inspirational figure" for his team.

Rodgers said that when Leicester signed the experienced centre-back - who was wanted by Manchester City and Arsenal - from West Bromwich Albion for £3.5m two years ago, it was the "deal of the century".

The Carnlough-born manager said: "I think for me, where I was at an advantage, I've known Jonny as a young player, obviously from back home, and saw him move across to Manchester United with his family.

"You can tell Jonny's been brought up well by his mum and dad, they're a really solid family and he did fantastically at Manchester United but unfortunately for Jonny when he was there, when Louis van Gaal was there, he had a number of injuries which meant then that he left and went to West Brom.

"And then you saw a player there with his leadership qualities and defending and how he worked there, he did great.

"But I have to say, Leicester City got the deal of the century for £3.5m to bring in a player of that level.

"And when I came in I had an understanding that he was a good player.

"I saw one of his first games for Manchester United down at Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when he was up against Didier Drogba and he was absolutely immense that day, I think he was around about 19, and I thought, 'God, he can be a player'."

Rodgers said that 32-year-old Evans, capped 84 times for Northern Ireland, has helped younger players benefit from his experience and is like an "unseen coach" on the pitch.

He said: "I was lucky enough to come in and inherit him, he was already at the club.

"And because of how we wanted to play, the game that we wanted to play was to play like a big team, which was to be aggressive when you have the ball and open up the pitch and not be frightened of the space.

"It suited him down to the ground, so for me since I've come in he's been absolutely brilliant.

"His experience, leadership, his reading of the game, professionalism, what he's done to help Cags (Caglar Soyuncu) - he's like an unseen coach for him, he pulls him around, gets him into position.

"And he's a really inspirational figure for our squad because he's been up at the highest level and is then now helping this young squad, along with other players like Kasper Schmeichel, Wes (Morgan) and Christian Fuchs, Marc Albrighton, all these guys have got really good experience, Jamie Vardy. These guys, like Jonny, are really helping our younger players but Jonny's been absolutely immense for me."

Rodgers (47) also admitted that it will be a challenge to motivate his players without the buzz of the crowd if the rest of the Premier League season is played behind closed doors.

He said: "My view is it would never be the same without the supporters, that's why you play - the two most important groups in football are the players and the supporters, it's not the same without either.

"But, of course, if it was behind closed doors then we would have to play, we'd have to find the purpose in order to do that.

"You're then hopeful supporters at the very worst will be able to watch the games (on TV) even though they can't be in there.

"As a coach and a management team you would have to find a way in order to create that emotional purpose for the players because it is different, lots of players respond off the crowds.

"If you don't have the supporters then of course it would never be the same.

"However, if that's what we have to do then we have to find the way to play and to get our end result."

Belfast Telegraph