Foxes need to be united: Ranieri

Leicester boss says he's hungry for more success and teamwork will be key at Wembley today

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri (above) believes that the club need to find a solution to the gap left by N'Golo Kante, the midfield driving force behind their title success last season, who has joined Chelsea.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri (above) believes that the club need to find a solution to the gap left by N'Golo Kante, the midfield driving force behind their title success last season, who has joined Chelsea.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • As Claudio Ranieri spoke at Leicester City's training ground on Friday to preview today's Community Shield match with Manchester United, extravagant reminders of last season's Premier League triumph arrived at the King Power Stadium.

Nineteen BMW i8s were delivered to the ground as reward for the players who secured that historic victory.

Each car is worth around £100,000 (S$176,000) but the players, having decided to use their title-winning bonus to treat themselves to new wheels, negotiated a bulk discount along with the club chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

It is another example of Leicester's potent teamwork.

The message manager Ranieri is eager to drive home is that such teamwork must continue if Leicester are to enjoy further success.

"I was satisfied," he said. "But now I am hungry. I want to eat something... I want more than the maximum of last season."

Today, that teamwork and hunger will be put to the test as the Italian locks horns with old adversary Jose Mourinho at Wembley.

Mourinho, 53, the manager of FA Cup winners United, twice pipped Ranieri to the Serie A title during their time in Italy, where he goaded the Italian about his age, lack of success and poor command of English.

But Ranieri took revenge last season, overseeing a 2-1 win over Mourinho's Chelsea in December.

Asked about his rival on Friday, Ranieri, 64, said: "We are used to living with the pressure and without pressure, we are not the same. Jose always tries to win and his career speaks for itself."

While Leicester continue to bask in the afterglow of an achievement that electrified world football, things are no longer quite as they were when captain Wes Morgan lifted the Premier League trophy on May 7.

N'Golo Kante, the redoubtable midfield driving force behind their title success, has joined Chelsea, while Riyad Mahrez, the PFA Player of the Year, has been linked with a move away amid reported interest from Arsenal.

Ranieri said that Leicester could be weakened by the loss of Kante, even though the club spent around £10 million to sign Nampalys Mendy from Nice .

"It's difficult to say how big is the hole (left by Kante)," Ranieri said.

"But it was the same last season when Esteban Cambiasso moved to Greece and Matty James was sidelined by injury. We found the solution. Now we have to restart and watch how we manage to play without Kante."

Six new signings are bedding in, led by Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa, a club-record £16-million capture from CSKA Moscow, who struck an impressive brace in a 4-2 defeat by Barcelona on Wednesday.

That loss in Stockholm followed a heavy 4-0 reverse at Paris Saint-Germain's hands and, having previously drawn 1-1 with Celtic, Ranieri's side have gone three games without a win.

Publicly, Mourinho's attitude towards Ranieri has softened.

He described Leicester's 5,000-1 title win as "magic" and the pair were photographed embracing prior to a Soccer Aid charity match in June.

But, privately, the Portuguese manager will be itching to get under Ranieri's skin, particularly having beaten the Italian only twice in their six head-to-head encounters to date.

United, though, have been scarcely more impressive in pre-season. They beat Galatasaray and Wigan Athletic, but crashed to a 4-1 defeat by Borussia Dortmund and saw a scheduled meeting with Manchester City fall victim to the Beijing rain.

"We need minutes for the players. Now we have Leicester and it is not a training session. It is a game," Mourinho said.

"We have six changes, not three, so that gives me the chance to give minutes to some players who I know cannot have the condition to play 90 (minutes). We will try to do a little bit of everything."

With Louis van Gaal having departed after two years of underwhelming results, United fans will hope the Wembley showpiece provides signs of a revival under Mourinho.

New signings Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all in line to feature.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Foxes need to be united: Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe