herald

Thursday 29 September 2016

Foxes savour title win

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is cheered by crowds of waiting fans as he arrives for lunch
with the rest of the Foxes squad in the centre of Leicester yesterday (Getty)
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is cheered by crowds of waiting fans as he arrives for lunch with the rest of the Foxes squad in the centre of Leicester yesterday (Getty)

Triumphant Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri says it could take him two years to understand what he has achieved after winning the Premier League.

Ranieri and his team - 5,000-1 shots at the start of the season - stunned the football world by sealing the title with two games to spare.

Leicester were among the favourites for the drop, with the Italian tipped to be the first manager sacked after he replaced Nigel Pearson last summer.

But they will receive their first top-flight trophy in their 132-year history after Saturday's final home game against Everton, and Ranieri said they must let it sink in.

"All the people around the world are asking for Leicester, what happened?" he said.

"But this is a moment you have to leave a little more (time) for and taste slowly like a good wine. Savour it. Maybe now is too early to think what we have done.

"Maybe one or two years could be better to understand, but now it is important to stay high in the world."

The Foxes clinched the title after Tottenham blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Chelsea on Monday, leaving Leicester seven points clear.

Ranieri watched the game at home in Leicester while the squad went to striker Jamie Vardy's house together.

They 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 per cent.

Working

"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.

"Now the second team in Italy is Leicester. In Thailand, the first team is Leicester. I've received letters from Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil - everywhere 'Leicester, Leicester, what a legend'. Everyone knows the Premier League."

When asked if the Foxes can defend their title, Ranieri replied: "I think no. But we want to continue to build. When I came here the objective was to create a solid foundation and build together. This season is out of our project but our foundations are very solid and we want to do our best.

"We don't want to sell anybody. If some player doesn't want to stay with us I don't want unhappy people.

"We are looking to add to the team but with the same mentality. Who comes must know we are working hard."

But the 64-year-old admitted he did not take anything for granted despite the Foxes' commanding lead going into the final three games.

He added: "I believed last night. Of course you feel something but I am a pragmatic man and I know football well. Something strange could happen. It was an amazing achievement.

"We wanted to do something special but no-one could have believed we would do this. I was at home with my wife. Nothing more. I celebrate with my wife and family."

The 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 England midfielder said: "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.

"He's a laid-back kind of guy and that reflects on us. It helps us when it comes to games. You look around and in three years we've won the Championship, we've won the Premier League, it's bonkers. It's hard to put into words. It's mad. I'll be looking back at this (season) for years. It'll be something I'll be able to tell my kids about."

The squad arrived for training as normal on Tuesday 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." Back-up goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who admitted he is likely to leave this summer, also said Ranieri's composure has been invaluable and wants them to keep their key players, including striker Jamie Vardy.

"He's (Ranieri) been incredibly calm throughout the course of the whole season," Schwarzer said.

"He's changed very little from when you look at the make-up of the team. He's made little tweaks, he's definitely changed the way we trained a little bit."

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 something to be admired very much. For me it is no miracle - it is what this team deserves."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News