Bangkok: Leicester City’s Italian manager Claudio Ranieri on Wednesday joked that it was time for him to boost the culinary incentives from pizza to lobster for his players to keep clean sheets.
The genial Italian, 64, has said he rewarded each match without conceding a goal during the Foxes’ stunning English Premier League title win with pizza for the whole team paid out off his own pocket.
Speaking in Bangkok at the start of a two-day tour of the homeland of the club’s billionaire owner, Ranieri said the implausible title victory meant he now has to up the ante.
Asked how he will reward a clean sheet next season as Leicester defend their title and take a bow in the European Champions League, Ranieri said “maybe a lunch or dinner, we have to increase or something. Lobster maybe”.
But “only one (for the team)”, he added in his typically banterous style.
Ranieri’s appointment last summer raised eyebrows among football pundits and fans alike.
But he won over his many critics with each victory, all the while maintaining the irreverent tone that made him a popular figure during his first spell in England between 2000 and 2004.
He treated Leicester City’s triumphant Premier League title-winners to a celebratory lunch at an Italian restaurant in Leicester the day after they won the title.
It has been a whirlwind of celebrations since, but Ranieri said he had one eye on the coming season, when Leicester will line up in Europe’s premier club competition as the unlikeliest English champions ever.
With Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus possible opponents, the grounded Ranieri said he was up to the pressures ahead.
“We know we are underdog(s).. as we were at the beginning of last season. That’s it. You understand my philosophy.”