Vardy and Mahrez tip of Leicester's iceberg: Ranieri
LECISTER: Lecister City's dynamic duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are not for sale at any price, manager Claudio Ranieri asserted after the pair combined again to fire their team back to the top of the Premier League.
Genuine title challengers? Ranieri, with a wry smile, still takes such talk with a pinch of salt but after a 2-1 victory on Monday over floundering champions Chelsea the Italian will find it hard to keep a lid on the clamour for much longer.
With Vardy and Mahrez in such outstanding form at this rate who will be able to split them for Player of the Season? surprise package Leicester have the belief and momentum to continue to ruffle feathers.
Vardy's 15th goal of a season which he knows is more the stuff of schoolboy dreams and a sublime strike from Mahrez, who has scored 11 and created another seven, kept Leicester rolling.
Asked if he feared losing both or either to bigger and richer clubs in January, the Italian coach was unequivocal.
"No," he replied. "Why? Nobody can buy them. They don't have the money.". Asked to put a value on Vardy, Ranieri politely declined.
Having set a three-year target to bring European football to the Midlands side, the club's Thai billionaire owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is likely to fend off the vultures for now.
Ranieri is happy to lavish praise on his star men but again hailed the players in Leicester's engine room that help to make the side tick.
"Vardy and Mahrez were fantastic but they are only the pinnacle of the iceberg," Ranieri said. "Behind them is big spirit, a team that works hard for each other."
He has consistently maintained that it would be a "miracle" if Leicester could finish in the top four and secure Champions League qualification come May.
No team with 35 plus points after the first 16 games of a Premier League season has finished outside the top four. Achieving the 40-point mark may change his mind.
"Yes, we are top of the league and our fans can dream. For my players, we need another five points."
Faced with questioning looks from a packed press room, Ranieri again allowed himself a wry smile.
"It's true," he insisted. "I want another five points. I don't know when we can achieve this. Everton and Liverpool away, Manchester City at home, then Bournemouth... four tough matches.
"Let me achieve 40 points and then I'll think of our next goal. Until 40, I will think only of that."