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Vardy, Mahrez not for sale at any price

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Jamie Vardy's goals have fired Leicester City to the top of the Premier League. PHOTO/AFP

Jamie Vardy’s goals have fired Leicester City to the top of the Premier League. PHOTO/AFP

LEICESTER, December 16- Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has declared that Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are not for sale at any price after they both scored in the 2-1 win over Chelsea on Monday.

Vardy opened the scoring for the Foxes 11 minutes before half-time and Mahrez doubled their lead shortly after the restart, with Loic Remy pulling one back for the Blues 13 minutes from time.

Striker Vardy is the Premier League’s leading scorer this season with 15 goals, having broken Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive top-flight matches. Meanwhile, winger Mahrez has been involved in 18 league goals this term, more than any other player.

With the Midlands club sitting at the top of the pile heading into the festive period, Ranieri is adamant his two star players will not be leaving the King Power Stadium during the January transfer window, no matter how much money is offered.

“No one can buy Vardy or Mahrez in January,” the Italian insisted. “They don’t have the money and they don’t have a price.

“We know Vardy and Mahrez are our credit cards but to do this, it is important that the other players play well too.”

-Pluck and Pizza-

Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez has scored freely as Leicester City mount an unlikely challenge for the Premier League title. PHOTO/AFP

Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez has scored freely as Leicester City mount an unlikely challenge for the Premier League title. PHOTO/AFP

To fully appreciate the implausibility of Leicester City’s astonishing rise to the top of the Premier League, wind the clock back 12 months adds AFP.

A year ago, Leicester were at the foot of the table, five points from safety with 10 points from 16 matches and looking dead certs for an immediate return to the Championship.

Now they are top, with 35 points from 16 games, and making a mockery of pre-season odds of 2,000-1 by mounting the most unlikely title challenge in the recent history of the English game.

“It’s a magical time,” said manager Claudio Ranieri after Monday’s win.

“We must continue to work hard because I don’t want to wake up. I want to continue to dream with our fans.”

The victory over Chelsea typified Leicester’s approach.

Their honest, hard-working style has charmed rival fans and journalists alike — “refreshing” was the buzzword on Tuesday’s British sports pages — and their success is also a personal triumph for Ranieri.

Ranieri was derisively labelled ‘The Tinkerman’ during his four years at Chelsea, due to his habit of rotating his team, and his appointment by Leicester in July following Nigel Pearson’s sacking unleashed a tide of mockery.

Former England striker Gary Lineker, probably Leicester’s most well-known alumnus, summed up the disdain when he tweeted: “Claudio Ranieri? Really?”

“I had mixed thoughts, to be honest,” former Leicester captain Steve Walsh told AFP. “But he’s ‘tinkered about’ and added some good tactical things, so it’s worked out really well.”

The genial Italian, 64, has been converting cynics to admirers with each victory, all the while maintaining the irreverent tone that made him a popular figure during his first spell in England between 2000 and 2004.

Takeaway pizza has become the currency with which he rewards his players for clean sheets, while he cited a song by local rock band Kasabian as the inspiration for the opening-day win over Sunderland.

On the pitch, the indefatigable Vardy and the jinking Mahrez have been symbols of Leicester’s revival, with Ranieri’s side typically defending deep and springing forward at devastating speed on the break.

Vardy, a £1 million ($1.52 million, 1.38 million euros) recruit from Fleetwood Town in 2012, has scored 15 league goals, while Mahrez, signed from Le Havre last year for just £400,000, has 11 goals and seven assists.

Close-season signings such as N’Golo Kante and Christian Fuchs have slotted in seamlessly, but another important factor has been continuity.

Leicester heaved themselves clear of danger last season with seven wins in their last nine games and Ranieri has retained Pearson’s back-room staff and kept faith with most of the players he inherited.

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