Leicester City were away at Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Sunday, August 19 and the game started horribly for Super Eagles star Wilfred Ndidi.
In the seventh minute, Ndidi was robbed of the ball just at the edge of Leicester City box by Mascon Mount who went on to score to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.
It was a very costly slip up that put Leicester City behind at Stamford Bridge and an error that once again highlighted his Achilles heel. Ndidi is a tackling force in midfield as numbers have shown in the past two seasons but he’s still one skillset away from being considered a genuine world-class player.
Ndidi struggles with the ball on his feet. Although he does have some strength in his right foot for some long-distance passes, he lacks the ability to dictate the game from midfield and the composure to keep possession under pressure.
Brenden Rodgers, however, demands his midfielders be more comfortable with the ball on their feet hence Ndidi’s attempt to keep possession on the edge of his penalty area. He admitted later that he didn't see Mount rush up to him before he got robbed of the ball.
But while that error exposed him, his reaction after has also given us a clue about the type of player he is.
He remained focus and played a decent game as Leicester City dominated Chelsea especially in the second half. He looked up for it almost immediately after his error and made more runs into Chelsea’s penalty area.
In the 67th minute, he made up for his error and scored Leicester City’s equaliser with a powerful header from a corner. If that goal was a testament of his strong-mindedness his reaction during his post-match interview showed a young man that expects so much from himself.
Despite his goal, it was obvious his error still haunted him as he remained despondent even during the post-match interview by Sky Sports.
“It’s something I have tried not to think about, but it still comes up in my head but it’s football, I just try to move on,” Ndidi admitted in a low-spirited manner after the game.
Talents are never enough in football, it’s the amount of work the elites put in and their habits of always trying to improve themselves that separate them from the rest. This is the mentality that Ndidi showed that Sunday against Chelsea.
His downbeat reaction even after his goal drew a reaction from the Sky Sports interviewer.
“It also says much about his (Ndidi) character and the ambition of Leicester City, the fact that having scored a fantastic equaliser, he stood here now still pretty miserable about the first goal,” Sky Sports interviewer said.
“The reaction of this man was brilliant,” Ndidi’s teammate James Maddison added.
“When you make a mistake like that, to show the character that he showed, to come back and control the game in which he did in that pivot role and to make amends with a bullet header I think he has a lot of praise.”
Football and school
Just a couple of days after the game at Stamford Bridge, Sky Sports again caught up with Ndidi in De Montfort University in Leicester where he is studying for a business degree. The 22-year-old resumes lectures on campus usually after training and stays there till about 6-7pm.
“It’s a personal thing for me that I want to do, to expand myself and learn new things,” Ndidi is quoted to say on the university's website.
“Instead of sitting at home after training I come to DMU for my classes.”
He further revealed that he hopes his degree will prepare him for life after football and also equip him to give back to young footballers back home in Nigeria.
His decision to combine an elite-football career with studying for a university degree also shows how focused and level-headed Ndidi is. As little as this might seem, it is rare to see among Nigerian footballers who oftentimes get flustered and distracted with the leisure pursuits that their fame and money can afford.
The examples are a dime a dozen but Ndidi is not one of them. This is a 22-year-old that has just married his longtime girlfriend and studies for a university degree in his free time.
Level-headed, focused, strong-minded and well-mannered, Ndidi keeps ticking the right boxes.