Immediately after Leicester City completed the magnificent 5000/1 feat of winning the Premier League, they had to stave off interest for their key players.
While the whole of the Foxes’ squad played their part in the incredible achievements, the trio of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante were unsurprisingly attracting plenty of interest.
Keeping all three appeared unlikely for Claudio Ranieri and, unfortunately for the champions, they haven’t been able to. That’s because midfielder N’Golo Kante opted to join Chelsea in a £30 million move. The Frenchman was magnificent for Leicester last season with his ability to break up play and start counter-attacks being crucial to their playing style.
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Some eyebrows may have been raised by Ranieri’s decision to allow Kante to join the west London club but the Italian has revealed why the deal happened.
"I can wish only the best for Kante,” he said humbly.
"I said at the beginning that I wanted to keep all my players but he pushed and said he wanted to go; I prefer not to keep because there were two or three teams and we couldn't keep him.
"We tried to keep him but he wanted to go. It is okay for us. Last season, [Esteban] Cambiasso went and now it is Kante."
Replacing Kante seems an impossible task. The 25-year-old, who joined Leicester for just £5.6 million last summer, sometimes gave the impression that there was more than one of him on the pitch with his incredible energy during Leicester’s sensational campaign.
Mendy is not a Kante replacement
Some believed that new signing Nampalys Mendy was brought in as a direct replacement for Kante. But Ranieri insists that, despite being the same position, the £10 million signing from Nice can’t fill Kante’s large boots.
"Mendy is not the same, just plays in the same position," he added.
But it’s not all bad news for Leicester in this transfer window. At the start of the summer, it seemed that Vardy would be the first out of the door as Arsenal triggered his release clause. But, after having a few weeks to think about the move, the striker decided to remain at the King Power Stadium.
With Kante leaving and Vardy staying, where does Mahrez’s future lay? The Algerian was attracting plenty of interest from around Europe but Ranieri gave a huge update on the winger’s future on Tuesday night.
"I think everybody here is happy. It's finished, the market has finished."
Asked specifically if he had spoken to Mahrez, Ranieri said : "Yes, he wants to stay."
Another player that will be remaining at the champions next season is captain Wes Morgan. The defender was a colossus at the back for Ranieri’s side and has now signed a new contract.
“At this moment I am very happy with all the squad. Wes Morgan has signed a new contract and I am very pleased because now, slowly, slowly, all the others will sign a new contract,” Ranieri said.
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