Claudio Ranieri hails ‘horse’ Jamie Vardy and battery-powered N’Golo Kante

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has described Jamie Vardy as a “fantastic horse” and says that his Premier League title-chasing players were “too small or too slow” for other clubs.

A year ago, Leicester were six points from safety at the foot of the table, but Sunday’s 1-0 win over Southampton left them seven points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur with six games to play.

The late-blossoming Vardy, 29, has spearheaded Leicester’s extraordinary title tilt with 19 goals and Ranieri said the England international was “not a footballer” but “a fantastic horse”.

He added: “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 team-mates will follow you.'”

Leicester’s squad was assembled for a fraction of the cost of rival line-ups, with Vardy costing just £1 million ($1.4 million, 1.2 million euros) and Algerian star Riyad Mahrez a mere £400,000.

“Perhaps you have heard their names now,” Ranieri wrote in an article for website The Players’ Tribune published on Wednesday.

“Players who were considered too small or too slow for other big clubs. N’Golo Kante. Jamie Vardy. Wes Morgan. Danny Drinkwater. Riyad Mahrez.

“When I arrived, my first day of training and I saw the quality of these players, I knew how good they could be.”

On Kante, a £5.6 million close-season capture from Caen, Ranieri said: “This player Kante, he was running so hard (in training) that I thought he must have a pack full of batteries hidden in his shorts.”

The Italian said that he had told the newly capped France international: “‘One day, I’m going to see you cross the ball, and then finish the cross with a header yourself.'”

– Pizza surprise –

Ranieri has played down Leicester’s title chances all season, but with the finishing line approaching, he concedes that he cannot ignore the huge excitement his team have caused.

“I am 64 years old, so I do not go out much,” said the former Chelsea, Juventus and Monaco manager.

“But lately, I have indeed been hearing the noise from all over the world. It is impossible to ignore.”

He added: “No matter what happens to end this season, I think our story is important for all football fans around the world.

SEE MORE: Wes Morgan’s rise to glory is a well-deserved Leicester and CONCACAF success story

“It gives hope to all the young players out there who have been told they are not good enough.”

Ranieri also revealed that during the club’s trip to a local pizzeria in October — the reward for their first clean sheet of the season against Crystal Palace — he made the players make their own pizzas.

“I had a surprise for them when we got there,” he said. “I said, ‘You have to work for everything. You work for your pizza, too. We will make our own.’

“So we went into the kitchen with the dough and the cheese and the sauce. We tossed our own pies. It was very good, too.”

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said that the experience of Leicester’s promotion from the Championship in 2014 would stand him and his team-mates in good stead in the title run-in.

“Granted it was in another league, but a lot of us have done this before,” said the Denmark international, in comments published in British newspapers.

“A lot of those players are still here from that period and we know what it’s like. You’ve got to take it one game at a time.”

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