Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has called on French midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante to decide quickly on his future as the Premier League champions plan the defence of their title.
Kante’s future is uncertain with a new contract from Leicester on the table amid interest from a host of rival clubs including Chelsea.
Ranieri has warned he does not want to be left waiting for a decision from the 25-year-old, who was one of the stand-out stars of last season’s title triumph and emerged with credit at Euro 2016 although he didn’t get to play in the 1-0 defeat in the final against Portugal.
“We offered a new contract to him, he went away because he wanted to finish Euro 2016, and now there is so much speculation around him,” said Ranieri at Leicester’s pre-season training camp in Austria.
“I don’t want to lose him but I can understand if he wants to go.
“I would like now to be sure who stays with me or not, because the friendly matches start now and I have to start to manage and change and try things.”
Ranieri has made regular calls to 25-year-old Kante, who has a release clause of around £20 million ($26.6m, 23.9m euros) in his contract and is understood to be being monitored by European champions Real Madrid as well as Chelsea.
“Maybe it is not Chelsea, maybe it is another team who made the Champions League,” said Ranieri.
But Ranieri is more bullish about his chances of keeping Riyad Mahrez, who was crowned PFA player of the year for his eye-catching displays last season.
The Algeria international has also been at the centre of summer transfer speculation but Ranieri does not expect him to leave the King Power Stadium.
“I am very confident with him,” said the Italian. “He stays here with us.
“He enjoys it and is not a man saying ‘coach I want to go’. He is happy.”
Meanwhile, Ranieri is still to sign a new contract of his own despite leading the club to a fairytale title win last season.
The 64-year-old believes he will agree a new deal before the start of the season but insists the negotiations between his representatives and sporting director Jon Rudkin are not a pressing concern.
He signed a three-year agreement last summer but is likely to be rewarded for last season’s title success with a four-year contract.
“I think before we start the season I will sign, but I signed one year ago,” said the former Chelsea manager.
“I think I will sign but it’s not important for me.”
One man who has signed a new deal is Jamie Vardy, whose goals fired Leicester to the title.
He turned down the chance to join Arsenal and instead penned a four-year contract with the Foxes.
He and Kante have been given extra time off after playing at Euro 2016, but Ranieri says Vardy’s new contract has already boosted the squad.
“It is unbelievable,” said Ranieri.
“It was fantastic because Jamie is our point of reference, or one of our points of reference.
“Of course all his teammates are happy and gave us a lot of energy to have another good season.”
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