Emile Heskey believes keeping Jamie Vardy is proof that Leicester City are able to “fight with the big guns”.
England striker Vardy scored 24 goals last season to power Leicester to an astonishing Premier League title triumph, prompting speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal.
The 29-year-old snubbed a switch to the Gunners, however, instead signing a new four-year deal at the King Power Stadium – a decision Heskey has hailed as “massive” for the club.
He told Omnisport: “I think it shows that we are able to fight with the big guns. If someone comes in for one of your players, and you keep him and you’re able to keep him on your books, give him another contract and keep him focused on your club, it’s massive.
“In years gone by players would have been happy to leave. But he’s looked at it and the team and said ‘I’m better suited in this Leicester structure than the Arsenal structure, I will probably get more chances to play regularly at Leicester’.
“It’s not about the money [for him], it’s about where you’re going to play and how you’re going to play.
“His family is settled in the Midlands, so he’s probably looked at it and thought ‘what’s the point of me leaving? We’ve won the league and let’s go and take the Champions League by storm’.”
Heskey also believes Claudio Ranieri should be considered one of the best managers in the world after masterminding Leicester’s success last season.
He added: “I think he is. Can other managers say they could go to a smaller club and make them champions? They can go to a bigger club and spend £100million, £200million and create a world-class team. But can you go to a smaller club and spend £10million or £20million maximum and create something that’s going to win you the league? I don’t think many managers could to that.
“He didn’t tinker with it [the team], he didn’t mess about with it, he just kept it going and going. They basically kept the same structure. I think it was a 4-4-2 with one striker dropping in when you’re defending. They kept it solid and broke from there but when they break they break fast.”
The next challenge for Leicester is to build on their achievements of last season, both domestically and in the Champions League, and Heskey thinks recruitment is key.
“The difficult thing for Leicester is, when you bring a player in, you’ve got to be thinking about the structure of the camp because that’s one of the things that was very, very important last season,” he said.
“Everyone was together and everyone was working for each other. So you don’t want to disrupt that with any prima donnas, you don’t want anybody coming in saying that they’re not doing this and they’re not doing that. You want everyone on the same wavelength again.
“Whenever you’re bringing players in, you need someone who’s going to be on the same page as everyone else. Because there’s going to be extra games as well, players are going to have to come in and come out.”