Vardy, Mahrez staying: Ranieri

Leicester fans receiving a free bottle of beer before Tuesday's game against Manchester City. The 0-0 draw dropped the Foxes from top spot in the Premier League on goal difference but it was still an astounding improvement from a year ago, when they
Leicester fans receiving a free bottle of beer before Tuesday's game against Manchester City. The 0-0 draw dropped the Foxes from top spot in the Premier League on goal difference but it was still an astounding improvement from a year ago, when they were bottom of the table.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Leicester boss warns suitors off pair, who've been key to their fine run

LONDON • Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester City manager, insists that Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have no desire to leave the football club this month.

The Italian has sent a warning to possible suitors before the opening of the transfer window that Leicester have no plans to sell the influential pair and claims that Mahrez, the Algeria midfield player, and Vardy, the England forward, have assured him that they are keen to stay.

The pair have scored a total of 28 goals this season, with Leicester ending last year level on 39 points with Arsenal at the top of the English Premier League.

Ranieri said: "Nobody goes from Leicester. They have said they want to stay with us and fight until the end and build with me and the chairman and our fans a big Leicester. We are a solid team and we want to continue together with everybody."

Leicester are open to the possibility of extending the contracts of both players, although Mahrez has 3 1/2 years left on his present deal and Vardy is contracted for another 2 1/2 years.

"The contract is not important now," Ranieri said. "They pay their agents to think about the contracts. If they think about too many things and not on the real job, they will not improve."

Expectations of a challenge for the title have risen among supporters with the side having won 11 of their 19 matches so far, but he remains keen to keep his players' feet on the ground.

He has backed his squad to build on their "fantastic half-season" ahead of today's Premier League clash against relegation-threatened Bournemouth.

"I think what we did is a miracle," he said. "If we arrive in the top four it is not a miracle, it something bigger - out of this galaxy.

"This is a crazy league this year. We made a fantastic half season, it is unbelievable what we are doing, but now we must continue this way. We must stay calm and continue to do our job.

"Of course we are very happy when a lot of people are saying Leicester can be top of the league at the end of the season. But last season a lot of people said Leicester were dead and relegated."

Ranieri gave his players permission to mark New Year's Eve but warned them to be ready for the home game against the Cherries, who are EPL debutants.

"They are very, very good professionals," he said. "It's important to celebrate, to enjoy because it was a fantastic 2015. But after that, we have to put our minds on Bournemouth. They're a very dangerous team. For us it's important to concentrate 100 per cent."

Leicester failed to end 2015 in top spot after they played out a goal-less home draw with Manchester City on Tuesday.

Captain Wes Morgan said: "We have done extremely well and set a standard for ourselves now that we want to keep and maintain. We have played everyone now this season and we have showed we are more than capable of playing up there with the best of them."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'Vardy, Mahrez staying: Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe