Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho is in no doubt as to what has been the key to Leicester City’s scarcely believable Premier League title push – manager Claudio Ranieri.
The Italian replaced Nigel Pearson in the off-season, and his appointment was met with raised eyebrows by many following a torrid spell in charge of the Greece national team.
Under Pearson, Leicester won seven of their final nine league matches last season to haul themselves away from what looked like certain relegation, and the Foxes have maintained that momentum in 2015-16.
With five games remaining, Leicester sit seven points clear of Tottenham as they close in on a remarkable first league crown, and Brazil international Fernandinho has cited Ranieri’s impact as influential.
“I think the difference about … Leicester this year compared to last year was the coach that they hired,” he told Omnisport.
“He is an experienced coach, who has lived many things in football and I think that was the main difference.
“They were a team that were struggling to not fall last season and this year, [heading into] the end of the championship with a realistic chance for the title. In my opinion was the coach who organised the tactical part.
“Moreover, they have two or three outstanding players and a very solid defence. That’s why he could do it with a great mastery. If Leicester can be an English champion, as everyone is expecting it to be, it will be in a deserved way because they were the team that kept a high performance throughout the league.
“If we have to compare the budget of Leicester with the five or six top teams in the Premier League, of course it is different, but you know that all Premier League teams they have a very good pay, where they can hire great players and organise a really good team.”
Fernandinho and his City team-mates were on the end of a damaging 3-1 home defeat to Leicester in early February, a result which gave further credence to the Foxes’ title ambitions.
“It was a game that … how can I explain?” he said. “It was a bit hard for us because we suffer two very quick goals in first minutes of the second half and it killed any power of reaction we could have.
“And beyond that, their coach is the Italian school that always gives priority to marking and defence, then it became more difficult for us. Hopefully we can learn a lesson from this defeat.”
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