Leicester City’s Premier League title has set a new standard for the whole of football and provided “inspiration for the whole world”, says the club’s vice-chairman.
In a rare interview with media, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha – the son of billionaire club owner and chairman Vichai – also talked about his family’s future plans for the club.
He also spoke of his relationship with “special” manager Claudio Ranieri and striker Jamie Vardy.
Srivaddhanaprabha Sr owns the King Power duty free chain which lends its name to the club’s stadium. The family have rarely spoken publicly since taking over the club in 2010.
In the wide-ranging BBC Sport interview, his son reveals:
- Ranieri was the first choice for the job;
- He thought it was “funny” when scouts asked for permission to sign Vardy from a non-league club;
- Next season’s first target remains Premier League survival, despite going into it as champions;
- He never believed they would win the league – but hoped to one day reach Champions League;
- Promises to add “quality players”;
- Says the aim is now “to stay in Premier League as long as we can”;
- Questions why any player would now want to leave the club.
Leicester won the Premier League title three days ago despite being 5,000-1 outsiders and tipped for relegation at the start of the season.
Italian Ranieri was a surprise choice as manager, with many pundits tipping him for the sack at the start if the season.
The 64-year-old lost his previous job as head coach of Greece after a defeat by the Faroe Islands – but Srivaddhanaprabha said he was struck by the former Chelsea boss.
“Claudio is a brilliant manager. The way he managed the media with the pressure of the team, he has so much experience with football,” he said.
“The way he managed the players and put them out on the field was something special. We saw that when we interviewed him. He has something special inside and has all the plans in his head.
“We interviewed quite a number of managers and he was the one I chose the first time. When I met him, he was the first choice for me.”
On signing Vardy
England striker Jamie Vardy, 29, is the top flight’s second-top scorer and found the net 11 games in a row earlier in the season – a Premier League record. He is now one of the most sought after strikers in Europe – but was signed for £1m from the then non-league Fleetwood Town in 2012.
“Steve Walsh [assistant manager] asked me to buy non-league players and I thought it was funny. Then when he showed me all the information about him, it was amazing. He scores 29 or 30 goals a year so we can see he can score and has a record.
“When I met him, he was quite a special character. He wanted success, he had the hunger to be the best striker in the team, even though he came from non-league.
“He talked to me openly about wanting to be in the Premier League and he said he will try anything to take the club to the Premier League. He said to me on the first day he wants to play for England, I said to him, ‘I will help you. Anything you want, I will do it’.”