Sun, Jul 31, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Ranieri sets survival target for the English champions

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Leicester City players take part in a training session in Carson, California, on Friday ahead of their International Champions Cup match against Paris Saint-Germain.

Photo: AFP

With a first English Premier League title under their belts and a place secured among Europe’s elite, Leicester City could be forgiven for expecting the silverware to just keep coming, but the Foxes’ Italian boss Claudio Ranieri is keeping his players’ feet firmly on the ground, insisting the goal for this season remains the same as 12 months earlier — avoiding relegation.

“It’s the same this season at the start — to achieve 40 points, at the beginning, to be solid and to believe in yourself,” the 64-year-old manager said.

Leicester, 5,000-1 outsiders in pre-season last year, were crowned champions for the first time in their 132-year history in May, handing Ranieri his first domestic title as a manager.

Ranieri has been busy in the transfer market, beating the club record outlay twice in a week to secure French midfielder Nampalys Mendy for £13 million (US$17.2 million) and Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa for £16.6 million.

One of Ranieri’s biggest headaches ahead of the season opener at Hull City will be keeping his team of newly-minted all-stars together, with big-spending Premier League rivals dangling lucrative contracts. Wales international midfielder Andy King — the only player in the Premier League era to have won titles in the top three tiers — gave the manager a boost by signing a four-year deal on Friday.

The 27-year-old, who made his Leicester City debut in 2007, joins 19-year-old Ben Chilwell in committing to the King Power Stadium along with Jamie Vardy, who has rejected an offer from Arsenal.

Ranieri told reporters King was “a good example for everybody,” and described Chilwell as “one of the best young players in the UK.”

However, the team’s all-action defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante went earlier this month on a five-year deal to Chelsea for a reported £32 million.

Kante, who signed for Leicester last year from French club Stade Malherbe Caen for a bargain £5.6 million, was a revelation in breaking down attacks and was shortlisted for the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.

Ranieri said he expected Leicester to cope fine without the star, as they had when Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiaso moved to Greek giants Olympiakos in the summer last year.

Kante’s teammate, Algeria international Riyad Mahrez, has also been at the center of summer transfer speculation alongside Kasper Schmeichel and Danny Drinkwater.

However, Ranieri said he expects all three to still be at the club when the transfer window closes.

“I think they want to stay with us to try to improve our last season. We know it is very difficult, but we are ambitious,” Ranieri said. “It is important they sign, stay with us and [get] experience in the Champions League.”

Ranieri said the chairman, Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was ready to fork out if the manager decided he needed more players.

Poland international Bartosz Kapustka, 19, confirmed on Friday he is is on the verge of a £7.5 million switch from Polish club KS Cracovia.

“We are waiting and when this player is with us I will tell you something more,” Ranieri said.

One problem for Ranieri going into the new season is that the Foxes have lost the element of surprise and will not benefit again from being underestimated by their opponents.

“We have to change something because the other teams know us very well. We have to make a plan B,” Ranieri said.

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