LONDON — Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has warned his freshly crowned Premier League champions that they would regret leaving the club, in comments published by British newspapers on Monday.
Leicester were presented with the Premier League trophy following Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Everton, having overcome odds of 5,000-1 to win the first top-flight title in their 132-year history.
They now face a challenge to hold onto players such as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, but with a Champions League campaign on the horizon, Ranieri is confident that they will stay put.
“I want to enjoy, but I feel it is possible maybe to keep all the players,” said the Italian. “It is important for us, but it is important also for them because they don’t know the Champions League.
“If they go away, it is not good for them. It is much better if they improve another year here and then go wherever they want.
“But I have said so many times if one player comes to me and says, ‘Gaffer, I want to go’, then I leave him to go because it is OK.” Leicester’s surge to glory was aided by the fact that they made early exits in both the FA Cup and League Cup, allowing Ranieri to plough all his resources into their league campaign.
Next season he will have to contend with the Champions League, in addition to the three domestic competitions, but he believes Leicester can ruffle the feathers of the European elite as well.
“I am confident because this team two years ago won the Championship and the Championship is very, very tough,” Ranieri said.
“They run all the year and then I hope we can find good players and make some replacements because next season there will be three cups and the Premier League.
“It will be very important to be able to make good changes and give some rest to the players.
“I believe when there will be the draw for the (Champions League) group, other teams will want to play against us because we are in Europe for the first time and they think we are underdogs.
“We are underdogs, but we are dangerous. Underdogs can be dangerous teams.” Meanwhile, Leicester’s highly regarded head of recruitment Steve Walsh — responsible for signing players including Kante and Mahrez — and fellow assistant manager Craig Shakespeare have agreed new contracts.
“We’ve not signed, but it’s all agreed,” Walsh told reporters, without revealing details of the deals.
Vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha added: “I think small things (are needed), but both have agreed. They did a brilliant job here.”