Claudio Ranieri has heaped rather unusual praise on two of his Leicester City players, Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kanté, describing the former as a “fantastic horse” and the latter as someone who appears to be performing with a “pack full of batteries hidden in his shorts”.
The Italian made the remarks during an interview with US website The Players Tribune. During the discussion, he spoke about how it feels like a “dream” to see Leicester top of the Premier League in early April, particularly given the plan at the start of the season was simply to avoid relegation: “Forty points. That was the goal. That was the total we needed to give our fans another season of Premier League football.”
It is comments regarding Vardy and Kanté which stand out most, however, although they should perhaps not come as a surprise given some of Ranieri’s remarks during this most incredible of campaigns for the east Midlands side. The manager recently described himself as “the sausageman” after discovering a Leicester butcher had named a sausage after him and, prior to that, revealed to journalists that he had bought all of the club’s players and staff little bells for Christmas. “From the beginning when something was wrong I’ve been saying: ‘Dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up, wake up!’” he said. “So on Christmas Day I bought for all the players and all the staff a little bell. It was just a joke.”
Speaking about Vardy, who has scored 19 goals for Leicester this season, making him the Premier League’s second-highest scorer, Ranieri said: “This is not a footballer. This is a fantastic horse.”
Moving on to Kanté, who arrived for £5.6m from Caen and has gone on to become a key part of Leicester’s midfield, Ranieri said: “This player, he was running so hard that I thought he must have a pack full of batteries hidden in his shorts. He never stopped running in training.”
Speaking of his squad in general, Ranieri said: “When I arrived and I saw the quality of these players, I knew how good they could be. I knew we had a chance to survive in the Premier League. We are a little team, so we have to fight with all our heart, with all our soul. I don’t care the name of the opponent. All I want is for you to fight. If they are better than us, OK, congratulations. But they have to show us they are better.”
Leicester’s 1-0 victory over Southampton on Sunday extended their lead over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur to seven points and means they are now, at most, four victories away from winning a first ever top-flight title.
“We have six games remaining, and we must continue fighting with our heart and our soul,” said Ranieri. “This is a small club that is showing the world what can be achieved through spirit and determination. Twenty-six players. Twenty-six different brains. But one heart.” – © Guardian News & Media