Claudio Ranieri says he could have left Leicester last season

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has claimed he could have left the Foxes last summer but insisted he is committed to saving the club from the drop.

The 65-year-old was linked to the Italy job after winning a shock Premier League title with Leicester last season.

But, ahead of tonight’s Champions League last 16 tie at Sevilla, he now sees the Foxes fighting relegation — they sit one point above the drop zone.

Leicester issued a statement backing Ranieri earlier this month and he is prepared to repay that faith, having ignored interest after winning the league last May.

He said: “I could leave last season, I won the title and I had something with other teams but I wanted to stay here because I knew it was a difficult year.

“I came here to build, to build something good for Leicester, for everybody. I keep going, I maintain my mind in this way. I forget the title and I want to achieve something good for the fans, chairman and the city.”

Speculation over Ranieri’s position has intensified given Leicester’s poor title defence, but he remains focused on Sevilla.

And he also urged his players to stay in the tie ahead of next month’s second leg at the King Power Stadium.

He said: “Maybe without the heavy league, we have clear minds and we know we are underdogs. If you see the last 10 years what Sevilla achieved, they are used to staying up the top but we are ready to fight and play our football. I am confident about a good match tomorrow.

“I ask my players to stay in the game for 90 plus minutes, to be strong, to help each other.

“Of course the first match is always important to understand. If we play our football it could be very good match tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, striker Jamie Vardy believes the Foxes can put their Premier League woes behind them in Spain.

Leicester are yet to score in the league this year and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Sky Bet League One Millwall on Saturday.

Vardy said: “You’re always going to get criticism, you have to blank it out, forget about it all and focus on what’s important. The main thing is Leicester, picking up points and dragging us away from the situation we’re in.

“It is strange (playing in the Champions League last 16 while in a relegation battle) but like you say it’s a game where we can forget about it for one night.

“We have to completely forget what happened last year. We have to work hard, the boss, his staff and the players and then come game time we need to put it all into practice.”

Islam Slimani has travelled and trained but is out with a groin injury while fellow forward Leonardo Ulloa remains sidelined with a thigh problem.

For his part, Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli insists Leicester need to forget their title miracle.

“We’re not talking about the team that won a league miraculously, you have to live in the now. So last year Leicester won the league but right now they are fighting relegation,” said the former Chile boss.

“The present matters the most. Ranieri got so much from the team last year with so little but now he is struggling, the past doesn’t matter, even when you have done something as miraculous as he did.

“I think Leicester are not having a good time in the league, they have a lot of doubts when last year they had so much belief. They were brilliant in the league last year and have been great in the Champions League, they qualified very quickly so in a two-legged tie it still poses a lot of risks for us.”


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