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Ranieri says last season’s failures prepared to kill to win title

FOOTBALL: Claudio Ranieri, manager of shock Premier League champions Leicester, believes sides like Chelsea and Liverpool who failed to even make the Champions League will be prepared to kill all opposition in the forthcoming season.



Thursday 21 July 2016, 09:50AM

Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri gestures during a recent training session. Photo: AFP
Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri gestures during a recent training session. Photo: AFP

The 64-year-old Italian added the pressure was not on him but his rivals like old foe Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Antonio Conte at one of his former clubs Chelsea.

Both of them like Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola have taken on new challenges although Mourinho and Conte like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool don’t have Champions League campaigns to be concerned about.

“Everything’s different now. You imagine the big teams who didn’t win last season, who didn’t make the Champions League,” Ranieri told The Sun.

“They are going crazy now. They want to kill now – not just us but all the other teams,” added Ranieri who succeeded in keeping talismanic striker Jamie Vardy but lost French midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante at the weekend to Chelsea.

Ranieri, who suggested his side should be 6000/1 to defend their crown as opposed to the 5000/1 they were for last season’s title, said the managerial talent, all of it foreign, coming into the Premier League was fantastic but only one could emerge a winner.

“Antonio Conte is fantastic, Jose [Mourinho], everybody knows Jose,” said Ranieri, who once was sneeringly dismissed by Mourinho as having only won one small trophy.

“Pep Guardiola is an amazing person and a good manager.

“I’m laughing because at the end of the season only one will will win and the pressure is not on me, it’s on them!”

Ranieri admitted the odds were loaded in favour of one of the big beasts of the Premier League regaining the title given the disparity in transfer funds they had.

The Italian has been pretty busy in the transfer market beating the club record outlay twice in a week to secure former France Under-21 midfielder Nampalys Mendy for £13million (B596mn), and then Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa for £16.6 million (B761mn).

“The big clubs are spending a lot of money and for this reason they must win,” said Ranieri. “Leicester City? People are just curious.

“What will happen with Leicester next season? Will it be a repeat?

“I say to them we can repeat the level of performance but not to win. To win again is a dream.”

Meanwhile, Musa admits the best decision he ever made was giving up goalkeeping to become a striker so feared that he is looking to make an immediate impact on the Premier League.

The 23-year-old Nigeria international moved to the King Power Stadium from CSKA Moscow and, having given up his goalkeeping ambitions as a schoolboy because of his diminutive stature, the 5ft 7in tall forward has no worries about coping with the physical challenge of the English top flight.

Musa became a striker while still at school when he decided to hang up his goalkeeping gloves.

He believes it was a decision that made his career, which has now taken him to England as a short-term understudy and potential longer-term replacement for England striker Jamie Vardy, who is six years his senior.

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But Musa believes the pair could also operate in tandem.

“I was a goalie between 10 and 12,” he revealed.

“But changing was the best decision of my life because I would never have been good enough to become a professional goalkeeper.

“It was difficult at first but then you get used to the fact you are not very big. A lot of people used to tell me ‘Musa, you are too small to be a striker.’

“But I said: ‘It doesn’t matter what size you are, it’s what you can do that matters’.

“I think I am like Jamie Vardy. I have speed, I like to work hard, we are similar in lots of things.

“Am I faster? I can’t say yet, I have never played with him. But I am looking forward to finding out!

“I’m looking forward to playing with Vardy. I like his style. I think we can fit well together.

“I think this is the right time for me to join Leicester. Last season, they were going after the title.

“This time we are starting afresh – that’s why I chose to join them this season.

“I’m from Nigeria and all Nigerian players would like to play in the Premier League. I think this will be a good league for me.”

Musa also admits he has been stunned by the Leicester work ethic in pre-season training.

“When I started my first session I was thinking ‘wow’,” said Musa.

“Because I have never seen that in Russia – but now I am getting used to it

“The intensity here is quite different to Russia. Here it is a little bit harder, in Russia they are more laid back.

“I think that is the most difficult thing, but I think that is the secret behind Leicester’s success.

“Everyone is focussed and everyone is happy with each other. That’s the biggest secret – if you’re all happy with each other you can achieve a lot.”



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