Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has issued a “hands-off” warning to any big clubs that think they can sign any of his stars.
Instead, he will focus on keeping his title winners together in an effort to upset the applecart once again next season.
The Foxes capped a fairy tale campaign with confirmation of a first Premier League title on Monday and Ranieri wasted little time in telling his players that their interests would be best served by staying at the King Power Stadium.
He says: “I would like to maintain all my players. If one of my players says to me ‘I want to go there’, I will try to keep him.
“I will suggest to everybody this is a fantastic club, we won the title, we can do something good in these few years.
“If you go away, you don’t know what will happen. Here you are the king.”
Ranieri acknowledged that bids for standout players such as Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy were likely to be made in the close season.
But the manager adds: “I will say: ‘Do you have enough money to buy my players?’
“It is much better to stay here for one year more and see what happens.
“Then maybe you can go |anywhere. The Champions League is another important league to compare yourself to the other champions.
“The lads are like my sons. If they come to me, I say this: ‘be careful’. Leicester in the long term will go to a very high position.”
Ranieri also played down speculation over his own future, with Leicester |reportedly prepared to improve terms on the three-year deal he signed last July.
He explains: “Why do I have to sign a new contract? It is not my job, my job is to go on the pitch.”
On the cheap…
Leicester’s squad was assembled for £57m, the cheapest of any currently in the top half of the table.
The cost to assemble their squad is dwarfed by that of the Premier League’s elite.
A recent study showed nearest challengers Tottenham had a squad built at the cost of £159m, while Arsenal (£231m), Liverpool (£260m), Chelsea (£280m), Manchester United (£395m) and Manchester City (£415m) had invested significantly more.
Of this, Ranieri says: “Big money makes big teams and usually big teams win. Now we can say only 99% of the time.
“Next season will be the same and for the next 10 or 20 years, it will be the same.”