Ranieri rules out superstars
LEICESTER, England (AP):
Claudio Ranieri is sticking with Leicester's title-winning blueprint and said the club won't be in the market for established, expensive talent to strengthen the Premier League champions.
"We don't need the superstars," Ranieri said yesterday, a day after the trophy was clinched with two games to spare. "I want to improve the squad without big stars, but the right players."
With a squad that cost less than US$80 million to assemble, Leicester completed one of the greatest transformations in sporting history. From being relegation candidates and 5,000-1 outsiders for the title, Leicester won the biggest prize in their 132-year history.
But it was achieved without the midweek demands of European football, which Leicester will have next season after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time.
No wonder, Ranieri is significantly lowering expectations for next season.
"For us it is important to stay in the 10th position around there and try to fight to go into Europe," Ranieri said at Leicester's modest training ground.
Leicester's eye for bargains has won admirers throughout the game.
Top-scorer Jamie Vardy was talent spotted while playing outside England's four professional leagues four years ago. The striker's 22 goals this season saw him voted Player of the Year by the Football Writers' Association this week.
Riyad Mahrez, who has scored 17 goals and provided 11 assists in the title charge, won the same accolade in a vote by his fellow professionals. The Algeria winger was an unknown when he joined Leicester two years ago from second-tier French side Le Havre for less than PS500,000 (then about US$820,000).
Ranieri's biggest task in the summer transfer window could be keeping hold of his players while trying to avoid upsetting the balance of his squad with new recruits.
"It is too early to say we need five, six, seven or eight players," Ranieri said. "If one of my players says to me I want to go ... I try to keep him. I suggest to everybody this is a fantastic club."