Claudio Ranieri has no plans to leave Leicester for the Italy national job, claiming he would like to retire at the club where he has rebuilt his reputation.
Ranieri, 64, has been touted as Antonio Conte's successor as Italy coach with Conte set to become Chelsea's new manager after Euro 2016, according to various media reports.
Having led unfashionable Leicester to a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with only eight matches remaining, Ranieri is on the verge of one of the greatest achievements in the history of the sport.
It has been reported this morning that Ranieri will be offered a wage increase on a £1.5m per year contract while the terms of an extension will surely be renegotiated in what is his first coaching job in the Premier League in 11 years.
"I’m fine at Leicester and I’m not thinking about moving,” Ranieri told Marca.
I think this will be my last club. My hope is that they’ll give me a long contract, five or six years and I can retire here.
Ranieri admits his main aim when succeeding Nigel Pearson as manager last summer was merely to keep the club in the Premier League.
“What’s our secret? There isn't one," said the former Chelsea and Juventus coach Ranieri. "Our success is based on a combination of circumstances.
“The Premier League's big boys aren't having the season they should be and we're having a year that no-one had expected.
“When I joined Leicester last summer, the chairman told me that my job was to keep us up for the first two seasons of my contract.
“The chairman is an ambitious, but down-to-earth guy; he knows that you can only reach for big things if you put the foundations in place first
“After those two years to establish ourselves, then the idea would have been to think about Europe. But everything has changed this season. I have a tight-knit, wonderful dressing room and a team that works.
“However, we know we haven't done anything yet. Everyone is rooting for us to win the Premier League. It's incredible that a small club are punching above their weight like this in the big-money era."
“If we were Chelsea, Arsenal, City or United we'd be thinking about the title. We're not, though.
Leonardo Ulloa celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal for Leicester City
Image credit: Reuters
“Leicester are a small club and we have to take things slow. We've achieved our most important target: we've already won because next season we'll be in the Premier League.
“Now we're going to fight to qualify for Europe. And if we stay up there, we'll try to get into the Champions League and then go for the title. But we have to take it one step at a time.”
Ranieri believes Leicester are at their most dangerous when the other team have possession, allowing them to break at speed and in numbers.
He feels that has been the key in catapulting Leicester towards a first English title in their 133-year history.
“We've changed the system,” said Ranieri.
I'd watched several games before I came in, I knew how they played and I've made some tweaks. I felt that certain players could play better in different positions and it's paying off.There are many different ways to play in football. Every coach has his own ideas. At Valencia we played quickly in the transitions because we had the players to do it.
“At my other clubs we didn’t always play on the counter-attack. The main thing is knowing the characteristics of your players and trying to make the most of them.
“In England the football is very dynamic, there’s a lot of battling and tackles. We can’t always have possession because we don’t have the quality to open up teams.
Leicester's Ngolo Kante
Image credit: Reuters
“So we always want to play quickly. We’re one of the teams with the most misplaced passes, but in one, two or three touches we can get a goal
“Would it be possible in Spain? I don’t think so, because there’s a different style of football. Territory and possession count more.
“When a big team has 60 per cent of the ball they’ll win, the smaller team can’t withstand it.
“There are other ways though. (Diego) Simone’s Atletico didn’t always have the ball, but they won La Liga.”
CLAUDIO RANIERI STATS
Has managed 15 clubs sice 1986 and Greece in 2014
Has coach Fiorentina, Napoli, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter, Parma, and Monaco
Has never won an elite national title in his career
Won the Coppa Italia with Fiorentina
Won the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup with Valencia
Won Ligue 2 with Monaco
Ranieri is already on course to be named the Premier League's manager of the year for his glorious success at the King Power Stadium so far this season, and perhaps manager of the century if he can steer Leicester over the finishing line ahead of juggernauts such as Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. It would be an extraordinary achievement, and one that proves the value of never giving up. Only a year after losing his job as coach of a struggling Greek national side, the likeable and passionate Ranieri's talents are probably wasted on international football.
The Italy position sounds good for an Italian, but is probably not as invigorating as working with players on the training ground on a daily basis. His ability to make players fit into a system that works best for them is an asset that too many managers struggle to grasp. No longer can he be known as 'The Tinkerman'. His willingness to show faith in a smallish group of players is being repaid in bundles of goodwill. Ranieri's quotes in Marca give Leicester a timely boost as they prepare for the final push towards immortality, and justify his standing as one of the more perceptive football coaches of our time.