Claudio Ranieri has ruled out taking the Italy job after Euro 2016 and wants to sign a long-term contract at Leicester City to end his managerial career there.
The Italian has far surpassed his target for the season of Premier League survival and is closing in on a remarkable title triumph.
Leicester’s success has seen Ranieri linked with the Italy coach’s position, which will be vacant when Antonio conte steps down following Euro 2016, but the 64-year-old wants to commit his future to Leicester.
“No team can change my mind,” he said on Thursday. “Definitely no. Of course I am very proud if they are thinking of me in Italy or anywhere else. But this is my club.”
When it was put to Ranieri that there is a clause which enables him to leave for £1m, he said: “I want to stay here. If my owner is happy I stay here. There isn’t another team – there is nothing who can change my mind. I am so happy here there is so much to do – we are just starting to build. If owner is happy with me, I’m happy with him. I’d like this to be last job – yes – if it’s possible I’d like to be here a long time.”
Ranieri has two years remaining on his contract. In a separate interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca, he said: “I hope they give me a long contract, six or seven years, and I retire here.
“When I joined Leicester last summer, the chairman told me that my job was to keep us up for the first two seasons of my contract. The chairman is an ambitious but down-to-earth guy. He knows that you can only reach for big things if you put the foundations in place first.
“After those two years to establish ourselves, then the idea would have been to think about Europe. But everything has changed this season.”
With eight games to go Leicester are five points clear at the top of the Premier League and are the title favourites, but Ranieri insists their goal – for now – is only to qualify for European football next season.
“We have a tight-knit, wonderful dressing room and a team that works. However, we know we haven’t done anything yet. Everyone is rooting for us to win the Premier League.
“It’s incredible that a small club are punching above their weight like this in the big-money era. If we were Chelsea, Arsenal, [Manchester] City or United we’d be thinking about the title. We’re not, though.
“Leicester are a small club and we have to take things slow,” Ranieri added. “We’ve achieved our most important target: we’ve already won because next season we’ll be in the Premier League. Now we’re going to fight to qualify for Europe. And if we stay up there, we’ll try to get into the Champions League and then go for the title. But we have to take it one step at a time.”