Claudio Ranieri: Leicester City didn’t need superstars to realise Premier League dream

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri insists he will snub superstar signings despite winning the Premier League.

The Italian also wants to keep his squad together and told them they will be kings if they stay at the new champions.

The Foxes, 5,000-1 outsiders at the start of the season, have claimed an improbable title after Tottenham blew a 2-0 lead at Chelsea to draw 2-2 on Monday, leaving Leicester seven points clear with just two games left.

They have qualified for the Champions League but despite their new status Ranieri will not upset the squad dynamic by buying big.

He said: “We don’t need the superstars. We need our players. You see (in January) we bought Demarai Gray, we bought Daniel Amartey.

“It’s the same, they have barely been with us not six months. 

“I want to improve the squad without big stars but the right players.

“It is too early to say we need five, six, seven or eight players. We have to see, I would like to maintain all my players.

“It is important to chose very well for the lads because now for me as well the lads are my sons. Leicester in the long-term will go in a very high position.”

Ranieri was thankful to Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink after the Blues’ point ended Tottenham’s title hopes but is looking forward to his Chelsea return on the final day of the season.

After Eden Hazard’s goal in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham, which gave Leicester the title, Ranieri said: “I was first on the armchair but after on the ceiling.”

Ranieri was axed as Chelsea boss 12 years ago but bears no grudges.

“It is good because last time I left the Premier League (in 2004) I went through my players and they made the guard of honour. It was amazing. 

“Now I will come back in the same way. It is unbelievable. I am satisfied, of course, but not in terms of ‘it is revenge’. No, no, no. I am not a man who wants revenge.”

The Italian remained coy on his own contract situation though after he signed a three-year deal in 2015 to replace Nigel Pearson at the King Power Stadium.

He added: “I have (signed for) three years (in 2015). Why do I have to sign a new contract?”

The Foxes will receive the trophy on Saturday after their final home game of the season with Everton and Ranieri said it will be a crowning glory, along with one of his first jobs in football at Cagliari.

“Yes, one of the best. I don’t forget when I started, where I started and in which division. 

“I came from non-league, from amateur football, and when I arrived at Cagliari, in the Third Division, and we got to Serie A, that was my first fairytale.

“So I have a little love with this fairytale. Of course to win the Premier League is something. But in my heart there is always this (Cagliari).”

Leicester are just the sixth team to win the Premier League, but Ranieri insisted an underdog will not emerge victorious again for another 20 years.

He said: “Big money makes the big teams and usually the big teams win — but now we can only say 99% (of the time).

“How many years after Nottingham Forest (in 1978) and Blackburn (in 1995) have another team won? Next season will be the same, for the next 10 or 20 years will be the same. 

“The richest will win or who can pick up the best players to make a team.

“If 20 owners have the same money for the players, only one can win and three will go down. That is football.”

The Leicester squad watched the Spurs game at striker Jamie Vardy’s house on Monday and midfielder Danny Drinkwater insisted their bond was key to their success.

The recently-capped England midfielder told Sky Sports: “It was brilliant, all the lads were together whilst it happened and it kind of sums us up as a group of lads.

“I’ve not (known a bond like it), and I think the rest of the lads would answer the question the same. It’s a special moment for us lot.

“The manager has kind of put his trust in us and we’ve repaid him.”

The squad arrived for training yesterday but had a light session before going for a celebration lunch at an Italian restaurant in the city.

Captain Wes Morgan, who scored in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United, admitted the emotions may get the better of him when he lifts the trophy after Saturday’s final home game of the season against Everton.

He said: “I am going to try to hold back the tears. it is going to be very emotional. It hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a long night celebrating and I am feeling a bit drained at the moment.

“After the initial euphoria a lot of people couldn’t believe what had happened. There were a few tears.

“I can’t quite believe it. It is safe to say I never thought I would be in this position now. The journey we’ve been on is fantastic. It’s an achievement that might not be achieved again.”

Jose Mourinho, who won the title with Chelsea last season, also offered his congratulations to Leicester and Ranieri via a CAA Sports UK statement which read: “I want to congratulate everyone connected to @LCFC; players, staff, owners and fans. I lost my title to Claudio Ranieri and it is with incredible emotion that I live this magic moment in his career.”

Leicester could face Real Madrid in the Champions League next season and head coach Zinedine Zidane praised their success and insisted it was deserved, not a miracle.

He said: “Miracles don’t exist in football. I think they have had a wonderful season. 

“Ranieri, their coach, did a wonderful job. I am really happy for them.

“It is the first time they are champions — it is something to be admired very much. 

“For me it is no miracle — it is what this team deserves.”

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill also added to Sky Sports: “It is fantastic for the city. it is unbelievable. The world knows where Leicester City are now.”

Meanwhile, Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini and Leicester’s Robert Huth have both been charged with violent conduct by the FA after being caught by TV cameras clashing in the penalty area in the first half of Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Leicester on Sunday.

Huth appeared to pull Fellaini’s hair, with the United midfielder responding by swinging an elbow into the neck of the German.

“Both players have until 6pm today to reply to their charge, and both would face three-match bans if found guilty.

That would mean Huth missing Saturday’s clash with Everton, where Leicester will be presented with the Premier League trophy, and their final game against Chelsea, as well as the opening match of next season.

Fellaini would miss United’s last three Premier League games but could return for the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace.

Ranieri on...

...his Chelsea return — as manager of the champions — on the final day of the season

“It is good because last time I left the Premier League (in 2004) I went through my players and they made the guard of honour. It was amazing. Now I will come back in the same way. It is unbelievable. I am satisfied, of course, but not in terms of ‘it is revenge’. No, no, no. I am not a man who wants revenge. I know my job very well and sometimes maybe the owner wants to change you because you don’t fit in with him.”

...winning the league

“I am very happy to win because when you start to make a manager you hope you can win some league. I won the most important league in Europe, I think, not just Europe but the world, the Premier League. It is a fantastic achievement, my career is fantastic but I want to achieve a little more if it is possible.”

...next season

“The foundations are solid, but the Champions League is very hard. Not as (physical) energy but mental energy. It burns a lot of mental energy in the Champions League. It is important to bring the players with the same mentality, our mentality. For us it is important to stay in 10th position and try to fight to go into Europe. It is not easy to play FA Cup, Charity Shield.”

...whether he will cry at the trophy presentation

“I’m a very strange man. Maybe Saturday I can cry, I don’t know. Maybe not because all the journalists are looking at you and I have to think about another thing.”

...on Eden Hazard’s goal in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham on Monday, which gave Leicester the title, and his talk with Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink afterwards

“I was first on the armchair but after on the ceiling! Afterwards, there was a friend between me and Hiddink, who called me and said, ‘there is Hiddink there’. I said ‘thank you, well done, thank you’. It was amazing.”

...why he won’t buy big

“We don’t need the superstars. We need our players. You see (in January) we bought Demarai Gray, we bought Daniel Amartey. It’s the same, they have barely been with us not six months. I want to improve the squad without big stars but the right players.”

...his contract situation

“I have (signed for) three years (in 2015). Why do I have to sign a new contract?”#

Here's a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Premier League Player of the season


Lifestyle

It’s natural to worry if your kids keep picking up colds and tummy bugs at nursery or school.Can I prevent my children getting sick so often?

Right from Steve Cooney’s first didgeridoo note on the opening track of their third album, Dublin-based seven-piece the Bonny Men command their audience’s absolute attention.Album Review: The Bonny Men - The Broken Pledge

Dan Snaith has carved a niche in electronic music as the thinking person's purveyor of twinkling beats.Album Review: Caribou, Suddenly

More From The Irish Examiner