Football: Heskey: Erratic Foxes can still win Champions League

Former Leicester striker Emile Heskey feels the Foxes are unpredictable and could win the Champions League and get relegated.
Former Leicester striker Emile Heskey feels the Foxes are unpredictable and could win the Champions League and get relegated.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

It might seem crazy but the possibility of relegation-threatened English Premier League team Leicester City winning the Champions League cannot be written off, said former England striker Emile Heskey.

Heskey, who started his career with the Foxes in 1994 before leaving for Liverpool in 2000, said yesterday: "I won't put it beyond them to win the Champions League. They have been unpredictable.

"When you've got a player from a big club, (Juventus goalkeeper and captain) Gianluigi Buffon, saying that he doesn't want to face Leicester in the next round, you really know that Leicester are a threat."

Leicester progressed to the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition for the first time with a 2-0 victory over Spanish club Sevilla, winners of the past three Europa League titles, on Tuesday. The win earned them a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

The Foxes have now recorded three straight wins since Claudio Ranieri was sacked as manager of the club on Feb 23. Since the Italian left, Leicester seem to have rediscovered their belief and confidence. Striker Jamie Vardy scored a brace to help Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1 on Feb 27, and against Sevilla, the team pressed the opposition all over the pitch.

Heskey believes last season's English champions are showing good form under new Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare because they have a point to prove.

The 39-year-old said: "I've been there in a relegation fight before and for them, perhaps it's now a case of feeling that they have to fight now to show that they've got a backbone and they can stay in the league."

Heskey was speaking yesterday at the sidelines of the launch of JSSL International 7s at The Arena at Woodleigh Park. The youth football tournament held from April 29 to May 1 over five locations in Singapore - The Arena, Stamford American International School, Turf City, United World College of South East Asia East and Padang - will feature 260 teams from 14 countries.

Despite the Foxes' upturn, Heskey was critical of the players' attitude towards Ranieri and their professionalism while the Italian was in charge. Under Ranieri, Leicester lost 14 out of 25 league matches this season, leaving them in a relegation battle. They are now 15th in the standings and just three points out of the drop zone.

Heskey felt that while Ranieri was given the boot, the players should also be blamed for the slump.

He said: "Because they've gone on to win three consecutive games, it makes them look sort of bad. Why have their performances picked up? People can say now that they were unwilling to play at their best level (under Ranieri).

"Inevitably, the captain of a ship will always take the fall. I think he was made a scapegoat, and the players hid behind that."

Nevertheless, he admitted that the recent results have so far vindicated the club's decision to sack Ranieri.

He said: "In some quarters, people might think it's unfair, But I think you've just got to respect the owners. They've had to make some difficult decisions but generally it's panned out well for the club."

Still, he feels Leicester's unpredictability makes them vulnerable to being relegated.

Said Heskey: "Only at the end of the season... we'll see if sacking Ranieri was the right decision."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Heskey: Erratic Foxes can still win Champions League'. Print Edition | Subscribe