LONDON (Reuters) - Claudio Ranieri re-named himself The Thinkerman on Thursday as he reflected on masterminding Leicester City’s improbable rise from relegation candidates to Premier League champions.
The 64-year-old Italian received a standing ovation from assembled media as he appeared for his first news conference since his intrepid Foxes were confirmed as champions of England for the first time in their history.
Sipping a glass of bubbly along with the press pack, Ranieri thanked “karma” for delivering his first major league title and said he had felt ‘something special’ since the start of a season that will enter British sporting folklore.
“I think it’s karma because I’ve fought hard to achieve this,” the much-traveled Ranieri, whose managerial career includes stints at Napoli, Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Roma and Monaco, said.
“Never I could imagine this, but it’s good. I am the Thinkerman, not Tinkerman,” he added in reference to the old nickname he earned during his days in charge of Chelsea when squad rotation was one of his traits.
This season Ranieri has out-smarted all his rivals, sticking by his tactics and relying on a settled formation.
Leicester have used only 18 players in their starting lineups this season, two fewer than second-placed Spurs while seven of his players have started 32 or more games.
Leicester were assured of the title when second-placed Tottenham Hotspur drew at Chelsea on Monday, since when the provincial city has been in party mode.
Ranieri confirmed that Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli would serenade the champions on Saturday when they receive the trophy after their match against Everton.
“I would like to go around the city maybe with the black glasses to see what happens because it is amazing,” Ranieri said of the mood in the East Midlands.
“(Bocelli) called me and he was so happy. He said he would like to set something up.”
Ranieri said he was at home making dinner when events unfolded at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
“I watched the match. Half-time I made dinner. Relaxed until the second (Chelsea) goal. After, I jump!” he said.
“It was a little more quiet than (Jamie Vardy‘s) house.”
Despite all the hullabaloo, Ranieri said it would be largely business as usual once the whistle blows on Saturday.
“I‘m already focused on the football,” he said.
“Now I am happy to plan my next football and think about 1 July to come back here and prepare for the new season.”
Asked if he would strengthen the squad to prepare to mix it with Europe’s elite in the Champions League, he added: “My lads are special. We have to bring some good players but who arrives must have the same spirit.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar