Claudio Ranieri is one of the nice guys.
He is also one of the funny guys and that came across in an interview published by The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday.
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The manager of Premier League leaders Leicester City had plenty to say about his star performers this season and the title of the piece was simply: “We do not dream.”
Ranieri, 64, was meant to be saving Leicester from relegation this season after he replaced Nigel Pearson last summer.
However, as I’m sure you all know by now, Leicester needs to win just four of their remaining six games to win the Premier League title.
This is epic. This is the stuff of dreams. This has to be one of the greatest sporting stories ever.
Throughout all of this euphoria sweeping the soccer world regarding Leicester’s success Ranieri has stayed calm.
Below are a few snippets from the piece. Read it in full here.
Jamie Vardy, for example. This is not a footballer. This is a fantastic horse. He has a need to be free out there on the pitch. I say to him, “You are free to move however you want, but you must help us when we lose the ball. That’s all I ask of you. If you start to press the opposition, all of your teammates will follow you.”
This player Kanté, 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.
I had to tell him, “Hey, N’Golo, slow down. Slow down. Don’t run after the ball every time, okay?”
He says to me, “Yes, boss. Yes. Okay.”
Ten seconds later, I look over and he’s running again.
I tell him, “One day, I’m going to see you cross the ball, and then finish the cross with a header yourself.”
On the final six games…
Just a few years ago, many of my players were in the lower leagues. Vardy was working in a factory. Kanté was in the third tier of the French league. Mahrez was in the French fourth division.
Now, we are fighting for a title. The Leicester fans I meet in the street tell me they are dreaming. But I say to them, “Okay, you dream for us. We do not dream. We simply work hard.”
No matter what happens to end this season, I think our story is important for all football fans around the world. It gives hope to all the young players out there who have been told they are not good enough.
On the mentality before this season began…
Before we played our first match of the season, I told the players, “I want you to play for your teammates. 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, Okay, congratulations. But they have to show us they are better.”