Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Claudio Ranieri has warned his Leicester City players that their remarkable Premier League title challenge will be forgotten unless they claim the trophy.
The Foxes are odds-on favourites to finish the season on top after mounting the most astonishing title bid in the history of the Premier League.
But despite their season capturing the imagination of the football public, the manager has insisted they will only go down in history if they hold off the challenge from Tottenham Hotspur and claim top spot.
“We made a good story, but to make something you will remember in 30 or 40 years we have to win,” said Ranieri, whose side host West Ham United on Sunday.
“We don’t achieve anything yet. We have to fight to achieve the Champions League.
“Football is very strange. If you weren’t here in Leicester but somewhere else, maybe Chelsea or Manchester United, with seven points more, you would say ‘it is finished’.
“At this moment you don’t think this. Why? Because we are Leicester. We have to fight and we have to be focused and strong.”
Leicester have lost just three games all season and will carry a healthy lead into their final five games of their season, starting with West Ham.
Their success was recognised this week when three Foxes players — N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy — were included on the shortlist for the PFA player of the season award.
And Ranieri says it is impossible to choose between the trio.
He said: “I am very proud because they deserve it. They are doing a fantastic performance in every match and I hope one of them can win.
“They are like three sons for me. If one son wins I am very happy.”
Last weekend’s victory at Sunderland secured a top-four finish for Leicester which, barring a Champions League title for Manchester City, guarantees a place in the Champions League qualifiers.
But Ranieri is still refusing to discuss a title challenge until his players have gone a step further and secured automatic entry to the group stages.
He said: “I love to hear the Champions League music but now we have to fight again.
“No, we are in the ‘previews’ but we have to fight again to achieve the Champions League.
“I am very focused on the next game. I want to focus on West Ham.
“You have a short memory. What we have now is the qualifiers of the Champions League — one match. I want to play six matches.
“Now we have to be focused on the next thing. The next thing is the Champions League.
“It is two matches and two matches is not the Champions League. I don’t think there is the music.
“I love the music. I think it will be a fantastic achievement.
“From the dream arrives the reality. But let’s wait! For me it’s important to try to win the next match.
“I don’t want to do something or say ‘we want to achieve that’. If we achieve the Champions League I want to fight more and more. That’s my mentality.”