Regardless of whether Leicester City win the league this year, the 2015-16 season will likely be forever known as the year the Foxes defied all odds and expectations to pull off one of the best seasons for a small club ever. At the helm of this season has been manager Claudio Ranieri, who penned an article on Wednesday describing the remarkable journey and explained what led the team to the top.
Writing as a contributor for The Players’ Tribune, Ranieri’s piece was entitled “We Do Not Dream” and in it he described the feeling as ‘Unbelievable’ that the team had 69 points at the end of the weekend after setting the goal at a mere 40 after being hired prior to the season.
“Forty points. That was the goal. That was the total we needed to stay in the first division, to give our fans another season of Premier League football.
“Back then, I did not dream that I would open the paper on April 4 and see Leicester City at the top of the table with 69 points. Last year on this same day, the club was at the bottom of the table.
He described midfielder N’Golo Kante, currently enjoying the best year of his career and one of the most dominant seasons of any midfielder in English football, as having ‘batteries in his pants’ by the way he plays with seemingly endless energy.
“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.”
As for Jamie Vardy, who broke the record for consecutive games with a goal in the Premier League and is currently the second-leading scorer in the Premier League, Ranieri referred to the star striker as ‘a fantastic horse’ and praised him for making it this far after working in a factory just a few years ago.
“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.'”
Ranieri explained that working hard, not having the biggest or most expensive players in football, have led the Foxes to the brink of football immortality and concluded that fans can dream but teams work hard.
“We have six games remaining, and we must continue fighting with our heart and our soul. 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.
“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.'”
Ranieri is currently considered a front-runner for Premier League Manager of the Year with a 59.5% win rate – his highest with any club in a 27-year managerial career that has included stints with Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Monaco, Juventus, Inter Milan and others.
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