Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri knows defending the Premier League title will be tough but he insists his players remain hungry despite last season’s success and the rewards it has brought.
The Foxes surprised everyone last season, defying odds of 5,000-1 following a relegation battle the previous campaign, by going on to win the league by 10 points.
Ranieri has signed a new four-year contract to keep him at the club until June 2020 and Leicester chief executive Susan Whelan believes getting the 64-year-old to commit to the club is just as important as securing the futures of the players.
‘’It’s important in terms of stability, following on from the commitment of a number of our senior players to new contracts,’’ she said.
‘’He’s had an immense effect in every element of the club.
“His character, his personality, has been very important. He has settled the team that was in place at the club and is continuing to develop on that.’’
Key players such as Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Kasper Schmeichel have also signed lucrative new contracts, while Danny Drinkwater is also understood to have been offered improved terms but has yet to sign.
The whole first-team squad each also received a brand new BMW sports car, worth over £100,000, as a gift from chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Leicester lost in the Community Shield to FA Cup winners Manchester United on Sunday but Ranieri remains confident his squad still possess the same hunger and fight that served them so well last season.
Speaking to Sky Sports News at the Premier League launch in London, the Italian said: ‘’Nobody expected us to win the title but now we forget the title and continue to build a team, club, everything.
‘’Of course it is more difficult.
“We can’t repeat it, of course we try and we defend very strongly our trophy but there are big teams now that last season, I don’t know why, made mistakes and now they have to win because they are used to winning and have spent a lot of money.
‘’The challenge now is there but we are to do the same - show our power, our strength, our solidarity. We play together and then if the result is a little lucky we can do something special again this year.
‘’I watch very well the match against Manchester United and we still have the same hunger, same humility, same passion. Of course also you need to be a little lucky but to be a little lucky you must also be strong - stronger than the match against United.
‘’This is my idea about football. If you give everything and don’t achieve then you must work harder.’’
Ranieri’s mantra last season, even when his team were challenging at the top of the table heading into Christmas, was to first secure survival by reaching the 40-point mark and it remains the same this time round - coupled with making progress in Europe.
He said: ‘’I know at the beginning it will be really hard because we have to forget the last season. We have to restart everything.
‘’I think our target now is to be safe, this is our goal - 40 points again. It is very important. After that our dream is to get to the knockout in the Champions League, if it is possible. If not then Europa League. We must enjoy our experience in the Champions League but also fight.’’
Leicester will begin the defence of their Premier League crown against newly-promoted Hull at the KC Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.
Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Who will be Premier League Champions 2016/17?
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