Ranieri wants happy players for title defence


Claudio Ranieri will not stand in the way of any of Leicester City's title heroes if they wish to leave the newly crowned Premier League champions during the close season.

Ranieri's 5,000-1 underdogs, who were widely tipped for relegation after the Italian replaced Nigel Pearson as boss for the current campaign, were confirmed as the unlikely kings of English football when nearest challengers Tottenham could only draw 2-2 at Chelsea on Monday.

PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, winner of the Football Writers' Association gong, have been linked to a host of domestic and European football heavyweights while inspiring Leicester to glory.

Those two stars and their team-mates now have the prospect of Champions League football and a title defence as incentives to remain at the King Power Stadium.

Ranieri is relaxed over the future of his squad, which he will seek to add to without diluting the incredible spirit and commitment that has carried Leicester to the Premier League summit.

"I don't want to sell nobody. Of course if some players don't want to stay with us because they aren't happy to continue with us, I don't want unhappy people.

"Then we are looking to reinforce the team but with the same mentality. Because this is my mentality, this is the players' mentality. We link very well together.

"Whoever comes must know that we are working hard."

In contrast to the raucous celebrations much of the Leicester squad enjoyed when watching Chelsea versus Tottenham at Jamie Vardy's house, Ranieri watched the match in the company of his wife and fielded congratulatory phone calls from his family in Rome.

The 64-year-old has managed illustrious clubs such as Juventus, Inter, Atletico Madrid and Valencia during a respected career but his maiden top-flight title at Leicester came somewhat ahead of schedule in the plans the midlands club fleshed out upon his arrival last year.

 "I think no [Leicester cannot do this again] but of course we want to continue to build. When I came here the project was to build a very good foundation and slowly, slowly to grow up together - in three or four years to fight to be in the Europa League.

"Now, this season is out of our project but of course the foundations are very, very solid. We know very well we need to fight next season for 10th position and over. We want to do our best. I am positive and I want to fight.

Ranieri added: "In my mind, always I believed I had to win a title. I don't know where but I wanted to win something.

"This, for me, is my strength. Always I am a positive man and always I believed I could achieve something. I am very, very pleased for this."