There are few skills that are as valued in modern football as speed. It makes things a lot easier. If you are fast, you can shake off your opponent, be on the ball earlier, run into rooms, escape your fellow players with cheers. The tragedy of speed is that it gets lost the earliest in old age, stamina and strength remain much longer, but speed runs like sand through your fingers. Inexorable. In the advanced football age, formerly fast players often have to reorient themselves: different position, lower level, new career path.

Such a fate has already been predicted for Jamie Vardy. At 33, he is suspected of not soon running away from everyone. But: Vardy doesn’t slow down. The Leicester City striker is a phenomenon in this regard. This season he even outperformed the competition for the top scorer – 23 goals in 35 games. Attackers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling or Harry Kane were left behind. There was a record on top of that. At 33, Vardy is the oldest top scorer the Premier League has had. “Vardy is having a party”, the English fans like to sing in honor of Vardy. Now he’s celebrating his personal Ü30 party.

An alternative to the academy footballer

Basically, it should come as no surprise that Vardy only rose to the top of the scorers with a delay. It is a prime example of a late starter, where one wonders: what if it had been discovered earlier? Vardy made her debut in the Premier League at the age of 27. His curriculum vitae is now as well known as it is moving: At 16, they told him at his home club Sheffield Wednesday that he was too small for a career, Vardy turned his back on football, made prostheses in a factory, came back to football, kicked with 20 in the eighth league, switched to second division Leicester City at 25 for a million pounds, rose, sensationally won the Premier League, played in the Champions League, played for England, kicked at the World Cup – and now: top scorer.

However, this compressed career path alone is not enough to explain the Vardy phenomenon. It is also an alternative to the perfectly trained, innocent talents that are now massively channeled through the football academies. His corners and edges make him popular with the football people, he is one of them who would roar his team forward if he were not on the lawn. Vardy is known to have drunk diluted port wine from empty plastic bottles in the evenings before games in Leicester City’s master season. Not exactly stylish, but authentic. His diet on the game day itself consisted of an energy drink right after getting up – on ex, of course. After breakfast there was the next energy drink. And one more before the game for safety.

Vardy was already in trouble with his drinking habits. At 20, he had to wear an ankle bracelet for half a year because he had fought in a pub. “If the games were too far away, it was over for me after an hour. Otherwise I would not have been able to comply with the probation requirements,” Vardy once said, joking about the robustness of the monitoring device: “The ankle bracelet was like an ankle protection. The thing was indestructible.”

Vardy changes diet and play

Such stories are not exactly known about many Premier League professionals. But Vardy is not someone who treats something like that in secret. His CV reveals that not every step he takes is right. Vardy had to pay a fine in 2016 after racially insulting a Japanese in a casino. In his biography, he writes that the word “racist” is a permanent eyesore, worse than his criminal record. “I was angry then and had drunk too much,” says Vardy. He also claimed not to have known that the word was racist. He made himself clear.

Vardy has not slowed down, but has calmed down a bit. His diet is more like that of a Premier League professional. At the beginning of last year, Brendan Rodgers came to Leicester, under whom the striker continued to develop. The Leicester coach recently attested to him: “He is still hungry, is super fit and takes care of himself.” In the Corona forced break, Vardy even appeared as an allotment gardener, which didn’t want to match his wild image. He is known to his coach only as a hard-working footballer. “He is a brilliant professional and you can see his willingness to play,” Rodgers said recently, praising Vardy’s work at Leicester City. He “inspired the club for several years”.

Vardy also shows changes on the lawn. He is still a sprinter with a marathon lung, tough and poisonous. But he now doses his strength better, no longer contests every running duel, is looking for new ways to the goal. Also, he is no longer just the ice-cold executor, his teammates benefit more from him in the game structure. As of this season, Vardy has also been among the small group of 30 players who have scored at least 100 goals in Premier League history. There is not much against Vardy driving the number up. And who knows, maybe he will even improve his age record. The oldest top scorer in England’s top division was Arsenal striker Ronnie Rooke at 37. That was in 1948 and the Premier League didn’t exist yet.