Jamie Vardy has enjoyed a meteoric rise to international stardom over the past nine months, thanks to his goalscoring exploits with Premier League leaders Leicester City this season.
The 29-year-old is the very definition of a late-bloomer. Just four years ago he was playing non-league football for Fleetwood Town and now he’s on the verge of winning a Premier League title, in with a shout of claiming the Golden Boot award and certain to be part of the England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
But it could have been a very different story for Vardy, who was apparently offered to the German second division side RB Leipzig just two years ago.
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RB Leipzig’s head coach, the experienced Ralf Rangnick, has revealed that he personally turned down the chance to sign Vardy because the English forward - aged 27 at the time - was “too old”.
"We desperately wanted to sign Joe Gomez, who later chose Liverpool, and we were flying back from London to Leipzig with his agent," Rangnick told Sport Bild magazine, per ITV Sport.
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"In the plane, the agent said to me 'Mr Rangnick, it's a crying shame that you are so radical about who you sign and only go for players who are under 24 because I've got somebody who would be just perfect for you. I can guarantee he would become a national team player under you, but he's already 27 and he's also spent time in prison after a little fight.'
"It was Jamie Vardy."
Rangnick recalled himself replying: "No, he's 27 - we're not doing it."
Vardy has improved with age
Vardy, despite his age, would fetch a fee in excess of £20 million if Leicester opted to sell the striker this summer.
It took him some time to adjust to life as a Premier League footballer - hence the reason, we imagine, why Leicester were tempted to sell the livewire striker in 2014 - but fans at the King Power Stadium are now mightily relieved Rangnick declined the chance to sign him.
Vardy only scored five goals in 34 Premier League appearances last term but was called up to the England squad that summer after impressing Roy Hodgson, Ray Lewington and Gary Neville with his pace and work ethic.
"I had to pinch myself most days before I even got here," Vardy told BBC Sport following his shock international call-up. "It doesn't feel real. But there's been a lot of hard work put into it. I've been given the chance now and hopefully I can take it."
Vardy has taken his game to a new level
The former non-league star, who Leicester signed for £1 million in 2012, has taken his game to a different level this season.
With 22 goals in 34 league appearances, plus two in two for England, Vardy has made Rangnick’s decision to reject him on the basis of his age look very foolish indeed.
Should Jamie Vardy start for England in France this summer? Have your say by leaving a comment below.