Claudio Ranieri: I could have left Leicester last summer

21 February 2017 08:09

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has claimed he could have left the Foxes last summer but insisted he is committed to saving the club from the drop.

The 65-year-old was linked to the Italy job after winning a shock Premier League title with Leicester last season.

But, ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last 16 tie at Sevilla, he now sees the Foxes fighting relegation - they sit one point above the drop zone.

Leicester issued a statement backing Ranieri earlier this month with any title defence in tatters and he is prepared to repay that faith, having ignored interest after winning the league last May.

He said: "I could leave last season, I won the title and I had something with other teams but I wanted to stay here because I knew it was a difficult year.

"I came here to build, to build something good for Leicester, for everybody. I keep going, I maintain my mind in this way. I forget the title and I want to achieve something good for the fans, chairman and the city."

Speculation over Ranieri's position has intensified given Leicester's poor title defence, but he remains focused on Sevilla.

And he also urged his players to stay in the tie ahead of next month's second leg at the King Power Stadium.

He said: "Maybe without the heavy league, we have clear minds and we know we are underdogs. If you see the last 10 years what Sevilla achieved, they are used to staying up the top but we are ready to fight and play our football. I am confident about a good match tomorrow.

"I ask my players to stay in the game for 90 plus minutes, to be strong, to help each other. I don't think about Arsenal (and their second-half capitulation at Bayern Munich last week) - I think about Leicester and Sevilla.

"Of course the first match is always important to understand. If we play our football it could be very good match tomorrow."

Meanwhile, striker Jamie Vardy believes the Foxes can put their Premier League woes behind them in Spain.

Leicester are yet to score in the league this year and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Sky Bet League One Millwall on Saturday.

Vardy said: "You're always going to get criticism, you have to blank it out, forget about it all and focus on what's important. The main thing is Leicester, picking up points and dragging us away from the situation we're in.

"It is strange (playing in the Champions League last 16 while in a relegation battle) but like you say it's a game where we can forget about it for one night.

"We have to completely forget what happened last year. We have to work hard, the boss, his staff and the players and then come game time we need to put it all into practice."

Islam Slimani has travelled and trained but is out with a groin injury while fellow forward Leonardo Ulloa remains sidelined with a thigh problem.

Source: PA