Sunday 18 February 2018

Claudio Ranieri says there's more chance of ET landing in London than Leicester retaining the title

Claudio Ranieri insists Leicester remain hungry for success
Claudio Ranieri insists Leicester remain hungry for success

Tom Rooney

Football managers have an uncanny knack of utilising oddly risible metaphors and analogies when discussing the beautiful game but, in describing his side’s chances of retaining the Premier League title, Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri has broken that particular mould.

Following an ultimately deflating European Championships and the ongoing, unprecedentedly frivolous transfer window, it is easy to forget that three months have not yet passed since Leicester City pulled off the greatest upset in the history of English football.

Not a single soul, even in jest, predicted they would come within miles of the same vicinity as the top 10, let alone wrest the title from the London/Manchester hegemony, but that they did, and with 10 points to spare.

In response, the Manchester clubs have engaged in a proverbial arms race for elite talent, Liverpool overhauled their squad and, in Antonio Conte, Chelsea have acquired one of the most accomplished coaches in the game.

Commendably, the Foxes have not allowed the spine of the squad that spearheaded their historic tilt be lured away, save for the indefatigable N’Golo Kante, who joined Chelsea.

Jamie Vardy spurned Arsenal to commit his future at the King Power Stadium and, soon after, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel and Ranieri followed suit.

Moreover, Riyad Mahrez has agreed to stay put for the time being.

Leicester have bought six new players thus far, efficiently going about their business; Nampalys Mendy appears a bespoke replacement for Kante, while Ahmed Musa, purchased from CSKA Moscow, possesses a similar searing pace to Vardy.

However, in his own inimitable fashion, Ranieri evoked an immortal Steven Spielberg picture when describing his team’s prospects of keeping the Premier League in the midlands for another year. He believes the bookies are likely to be of the same opinion.

“I work to be safe, and continue to build a team, anything that happens more, is fantastic. It is normal we can’t win the league. For this reason I say the bookmakers must do 6,000-1. It is impossible.

“It is more difficult than last season. It is easier ET comes to Piccadilly Circus! You don’t understand? Let’s play 10 matches then you see.”

Ranieri has a charming knack of being both gregarious and self-deprecating simultaneously and one can’t help arrive at the sneaking feeling that the Italian is playing possum.

He has a settled, cohesive group, which is more than many clubs can say, and even with the added Champions League requirements, it is hard to imagine Leicester will go quietly into the night.

Leicester’s first five games, against Hull, Arsenal, Swansea, Liverpool and Burnley, are eminently winnable so their trajectory will make for compelling viewing. Well, the manager certainly thinks so.

“I am very curious to see where we finish,’ he said. 'Of course the big teams are ready to fight for the title, we are ready to defend our title. Last season we made something unbelievable but now the big teams go back I am sure.”

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