English Premier League champions Leicester City will probably need to buy three or four players over the summer to compete in the European Champions League, vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha told Reuters on Wednesday.
He declined to say how much money he and his father, club owner and duty free magnate Vichai, would spend to meet the challenge of a new competition and additional matches – but said there would be signings.
“We know we are going to play a lot of games next season,” said Aiyawatt. “We have to add some players… Maybe we will add three or four.”
Manager Claudio Ranieri said any new signings would no be expensive superstars.
“It’s not so important to bring superstars but to bring players like ours, that play with the heart and the soul,” Ranieri told reporters in Bangkok as the Thai-owned team began an end-of-season tour.
Leicester’s stunning success, built on a team that before the season began included few household names, has captivated soccer lovers everywhere. Ranieri said Leicester had their eye on several new players, but bringing in big-money signings would destroy the team ethos.
“I don’t want to lose the team, this is a family team and we need to find new brothers.”
So far Ranieri said none of his players had requested a transfer. “It’s better for them to stay and have the experience of the Champions League,” he said.
Next season, in addition to defending their Premier League title, Leicester – who were playing in the second tier of English football when Vichai’s King Power Group took over in 2010 – will compete in UEFA’s lucrative Champions League.
Ranieri and star players including captain Wes Morgan and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel received a rock-star welcome at the Bangkok headquarters of King Power, the duty-free franchise that made Vichai one of Thailand’s richest men.
“Drinking sessions,” joked Morgan, when asked the secret of his team’s success. “That and all the times on the training field and the pitch, when you learn to love each other and fight for each other.”
Some of the team’s top stars were absent, including striker Jamie Vardy, who has just been named in England’s squad for the summer Euro 2016 tournament.
Premier league soccer is popular in the Southeast Asian nation, but most fans follow more storied big money rivals such as Manchester United and Liverpool.
Although success has brought more Thai fans, the “Siam Foxes” support base remains relatively small and many follow the club as their second team.
Only a few dozen fans showed up to greet the team’s early arrival on Wednesday at Bangkok’s main airport. In contrast, around a quarter of a million ecstatic fans lined the streets of Leicester on Monday for the team’s victory parade.
With the world’s media focused on the players, the club will be keen to avoid a repeat of last year’s end-of-season tour in Thailand which resulted in the club sacking three players for their roles in a racist sex tape filmed on the tour.
Ranieri said he planned to visit the temple of the Thai monk who had blessed the team during their astonishing rise.
“Good energy” had helped, he said.
Vichai is a regular devotee of Phra Prommangkalachan, the 63-year-old assistant to the abbot of Bangkok’s Traimitr Temple, and took the monk to Britain to bless the stadium and the team.
In a light-hearted media session, Ranieri sang and joked that instead of pizza, he would have to buy lobster for the team when they keep a clean sheet next season.
“But only one lobster for the whole team,” he said.
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