LONDON, May 3 – Claudio Ranieri wants Leicester to follow up their Premier League triumph with a top 10 finish next season, describing their sensational campaign as ‘unrepeatable.’
Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge saw Leicester finally crowned champions with two games to spare on Monday and Ranieri admitted he was following proceedings in west London, despite claiming he would be unable to due to his return flight from Italy after lunch with his 96-year-old mother.
“When something happens to you like this, you can’t fully realise it. Tottenham were winning at half-time, so I was a bit downhearted,” Ranieri told RAI Sport in Italy. “Then when Cahill scored, I thought something could happen. I did celebrate at Hazard’s equaliser.
“This is a year that cannot be repeated, next year we’ll try to fight for a top 10 place, hopefully. We must continue to grow and to do well.”
The triumph is a poignant moment for Ranieri, who has never won a league title before in a lengthy career which has seen him take charge of some of the leading clubs throughout the continent, such as Chelsea, Valencia and Juventus.
His appointment as manager in July last year was derided by Leicester fans. He took the reins at the King Power stadium after being sacked from a disastrous four-month spell as Greece manager – a defeat by European minnows Faroe Islands bringing his time in Athens to an abrupt halt.
“I am 64 years old, I’ve been fighting for a long time, but I was always positive and had positivity on my side,” Ranieri said.
“I always thought that I’d end up winning a league title somewhere eventually. I am the same man who was fired by Greece, perhaps someone there had forgotten about my career.
“It’s not as if anyone will forget, but I like to point out I am the same man who was on the Greece bench. I haven’t changed.”
But speaking to Leicester’s website, Ranieri confessed he never could have anticipated ending his first season at the club with a Premier League winner’s medal and a place in next season’s Champions League.
“I never expected this when I arrived. I’m a pragmatic man, I just wanted to win match after match and help my players to improve week after week. Never did I think too much about where it would take us,” Ranieri said.
“The players have been fantastic. Their focus, their determination, their spirit has made this possible. Every game they fight for each other and I love to see this in my players. They deserve to be champions.”
Chelsea’s boss Guus Hiddink revealed that Ranieri called him shortly after the final whistle at Stamdford Bridge to thank him for curtailing Tottenham’s title aspirations with the 2-2 draw and the Dutchman could sense the Leicester boss was emotional at what he had achieved.
“I got a call from Ranieri,” Hiddink revealed in his post-match press conference. “He called and thanked us for what we did, especially the second half, and I congratulated him for being champions.
“(He said) five times ‘thanks’, because of the emotion. I didn’t see any tears because it was not a Facetime conversation, but his voice was trembling a bit.’