Ranieri's goal of avoiding relegation unchanged

LOS ANGELES • With a first English Premier League title under their belts and a place secured among Europe's footballing elite, Leicester City could be forgiven for expecting the silverware to just keep coming.

But the Foxes' Italian boss Claudio Ranieri is keeping his players' feet firmly on the ground, insisting the goal for 2016-17 remains the same as 12 months earlier - avoiding relegation.

"It's the same this season at the start - to achieve 40 points, at the beginning, to be solid and to believe in yourself," the 64-year-old Italian said.

Leicester, 5,000-to-one outsiders in pre-season, were crowned champions for the first time in their 132-year history in May, handing Ranieri his first domestic title as a manager.

They are due to lock horns in the pre-season International Champions Cup in Los Angeles this morning with French title winners, Paris Saint-Germain.

Ranieri, who will surely have the tougher task, has been busy in the transfer market, beating the club record outlay twice in a week to secure French midfielder Nampalys Mendy for £13 million (S$23 million), and Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa for £16.6 million.

One of Ranieri's biggest headaches ahead of the season opener at Hull will be keeping his team of newly minted stars together.

Welsh international midfielder Andy King - the only player in the Premier League era to have won titles in the top three tiers - gave the manager a boost by signing a four-year deal on Friday.

The 27-year-old joins 19-year-old Ben Chilwell in committing to the King Power Stadium along with Jamie Vardy, who has rejected an offer from Arsenal.

But the team's all-action defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante went this month on a five-year deal to Chelsea for a reported £32 million.

Riyad Mahrez has also been at the centre of summer transfer speculation, alongside Kasper Schmeichel and Danny Drinkwater.

"I think they want to stay with us to try to improve our last season. We know it is very difficult but we are ambitious," Ranieri said.

"It is important they sign, stay with us and (get) experience in the Champions League."

Ranieri said the Thai chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was ready to fork out if the manager decided he needed more players.

Polish international winger Bartosz Kapustka, 19, confirmed on Friday that he is on the verge of a £7.5 million switch from Polish club Cracovia.

"We are waiting, and when this player is with us I will tell you something more," Ranieri said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Ranieri's goal of avoiding relegation unchanged'. Print Edition | Subscribe