Claudio Ranieri served up some delectable morsels on Leicester City’s dream season today.
Of course, he preached coaches’ favorite tropes: hard work, dedication, playing for the man next you; but he also dished up the inside scoop on some of the Premier League’s breakout stars.
On French dynamo N’Golo Kanté’s incredible motor:
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
On Jamie Vardy’s likeness to a horse:
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 SAWY TO HIM, “YOU ARE FREE TO MOVE HOWEVER YOU WANT, BUT YOU MUST HELP US WHEN WE LOST THE BALL.” THAT’S ALL I ASK OF YOU.
On the motivational power of pizza:
BEFORE EVERY GAME, I SAID, “COME ON BOYS, COME ON. CLEAN SHEET TODAY.”
NO CLEAN SHEET. I TRIED EVERY MOTIVATION.
SO FINALLY, BEFORE THE GAME AGAINST CRYSTAL PALACE, I SAID, “COME ON BOYS. COME ON. I OFFER YOU A PIZZA IF YOU GET THE CLEAN SHEET.
OF COURSE, MY PLAYERS MADE A CLEAN SHET AGAINST CRYSTAL PALACE. ONE-NIL.
There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth – well, the horse trainer’s mouth, anyway. 80% of success is pizza.