Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri said he hoped to stay at the Premier League leaders for years to come, fending off speculation of a return to his native country any time soon. The 64-year-old Italian said this week that Leicester, the sensation of the season and five points clear of Tottenham Hotspur with eight games remaining, would be his last club before retirement.
Asked whether it would also be his last job, he told reporters ahead the Foxes' away game at Crystal Palace: "I want to stay here. If my owner is happy I stay here. There isn't another team. There is nothing that can change my mind."
Italy head coach Antonio Conte said he will be stepping down after Euro 2016, increasing speculation that he will join Premier League Chelsea next season. The 46-year-old former Juventus coach is contracted to Italy until the end of the summer championship.
Ranieri, meanwhile, signed a three-year deal when he arrived at Leicester last July, but media reports say a get-out clause allows the Thai-owned club to let him go without huge compensation. It also left Ranieri free to accept other offers. The former Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Valencia, Juventus, Inter Milan and Monaco manager repeated he wanted to stay when asked about the Italy job.
"Of course I am very proud if they are thinking about me in Italy or anywhere, but this is my club," he said of Leicester.
Ranieri started the season focusing on Leicester's Premier League survival and has seen the unfashionable club progress from 5,000-1 outsiders to title frontrunners in what would be one of the biggest upsets in football history. Leicester are now 11 points clear of third-placed Arsenal and 12 ahead of Manchester City, who both have a game in hand. Ranieri warned against thinking about the title and said the Crystal Palace game was his focus.
"Now we want to fight but we are very, very focused, not on the title, we are focused on the Crystal Palace match," he said. "They are strong. They are tall. They are very solid, and there is another tough match. There will be another battle. That is our mentality."
Ranieri indulged himself a little when asked to imagine Leicester hosting Champions League matches with the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the King Power Stadium next season if they qualify for that tournament. "You can imagine our fans. It would be fantastic for us, for the club, for everybody. For everybody a little Leicester against these big teams," said Ranieri before snapping back to the present. "But just think one second and then come back."