LONDON • Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has urged his players to stick around for next season, after helping the English football club to a remarkable Premier League triumph.
The likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante have become household names over the last season as Leicester defied odds of 5,000-1 to become English champions for the first time.
Their elevated profile has already led to speculation that they could be snapped up by football's more traditional powers over the close season, but Ranieri urged them to stay on for Leicester's maiden Champions League campaign.
"If they are intelligent, they stay with us another year," the Italian manager told the BBC after Leicester celebrated their triumph with a 3-1 victory over Everton on Saturday. "They know the Champions League is very difficult. Then after this next experience, they can go.
"If they ask me something, I say, 'Stay with me'. But if somebody comes to me and says, 'I'd like to go,' then go because I want only happy players with me."
If they ask me something, I say, 'Stay with me'. But if somebody comes to me and says, 'I'd like to go,' then go because I want only happy players with me.
CLAUDIO RANIERI, Leicester manager, urging his players to remain with the team even though bigger clubs are set to come a-calling.
Ranieri, who was sprayed with champagne by left-back Christian Fuchs as he settled down to address the media at the end of a joyous, emotional day at the King Power Stadium, accepted that next season would be a challenge for a club who were involved in a battle against relegation only 12 months ago.
We restart next season with the same ambition, with the same humility, with the same feeling.
But he urged the fans to continue to believe in him and his players.
"We know very well next season everything will be different," he said. "But the fans are dreaming - keep dreaming. Why wake up?"
Leicester's chances of retaining their title have already been widely written off, but Ranieri believes that, if they can maintain the momentum from this season, more fairy tales may lie ahead.
"I don't know next season what happens because this has been a magic season, but can you imagine if Leicester start well again - oof, what happens? I don't know," he said.
"Now, let me think only of this last match, let me go to the sea, recharge my batteries and we restart next season with the same ambition, with the same humility, with the same feeling."
Leicester City was not the only place marking the club's remarkable triumph.
In Bangkok, cheers, spilt beers and confetti met the awarding of the Premier League trophy to Leicester at a lively party laid on by the club's Thai owners on Saturday.
Thousands of fans danced and sang at the headquarters of King Power, the company owned by duty-free billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha along with Leicester, as the Foxes' win against Everton was broadcast on a big screen.
As captain Wes Morgan hoisted the trophy aloft on the big screen behind them, jubilant fans jumped into a fountain, with confetti raining down.
Rangsee Tuengpant praised the Thai role in the Foxes' famous title win. "I'm here for the history of the moment," he said. "We are Thais and we will always follow other Thais who are successful internationally. This is unbelievable."
The only note of disappointment for Leicester fans was that Vardy, who scored twice, missed a penalty on his return from a two-game suspension.
The goals left him on 24 for the campaign - one shy of Tottenham Hotspur marksman Harry Kane as the duo tussle for the Golden Boot.
Andy King scored Leicester's second goal, before Kevin Mirallas pulled a late goal back for Everton.
Leicester play their final game of the season at outgoing champions Chelsea, Ranieri's former club, before an open-top bus parade in Leicester the following day.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS