| 15.3°C Belfast

N'Golo Kante may decide to leave Leicester in the summer


Leicester City's N'Golo Kante has impressed since moving from Caen last summer.

Leicester City's N'Golo Kante has impressed since moving from Caen last summer.

Leicester City's N'Golo Kante has impressed since moving from Caen last summer.

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri admits N'Golo Kante could be allowed to leave the King Power Stadium.

Midfielder Kante hinted while on international duty with France he was flattered about being linked with a move away after a stellar season.

He made his debut for France against Russia on Tuesday, scoring the opener in a 4-2 victory, on his 25th birthday.

Ranieri has always conceded he will not keep unhappy players at the shock Barclays Premier League leaders and while he hopes to keep Kante he would not stand in his way if he wanted to leave.

"I think he should rest here. He is working very well. But if some big teams arrive who give us a lot of big money, maybe we can think about it," he said, ahead of Sunday's visit of Southampton.

"If he is not happy here and wants to go. I don't want sad people here. I want happy people.

"He is always smiling. It is speculation and now our focus is on the pitch. After is another season."

Kante, who joined from Caen last summer, had previously said: "I will fight for Leicester this season, next season we never know and we will see.

"At this moment I am focused on Leicester. We have to finish well this season but I don't mind about (being linked with) the other clubs."

Meanwhile, the Foxes are close to agreeing new deals with Ranieri's assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, who is also head of recruitment.

The pair have been discussing fresh terms for a number of weeks and are set to commit their future to the club.

Ranieri added: "I think they are very close. I don't know if they are already signed or are signing in the next few days. I've spoken so many times of how they are important for us.

"If it wasn't important he (Shakespeare) doesn't stay with me. It is very important. For this reason I asked him to stay here and for the club to maintain the normal situation here."

Leicester are five points clear at the top and welcome the Saints on Sunday with Jeff Schlupp a doubt with a knee problem but fans will get a doughnut and drink with chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha celebrating his birthday on Monday.

Ranieri added: "Yes, it's his birthday and he wants to offer some beer and something more. It's fantastic."

The Foxes lead second-placed Tottenham by five points and, for the first time, Ranieri has targeted Champions League qualification.

Before the international break the Italian had spoken about the Europa League but has now upped his goal with Leicester on the brink of a stunning title success.

He said: "Now our focus is to try to achieve the Champions League. There are so many teams (competing) but everything is in our hands. It's important to see how many matches there are (left) when we achieve the Champions League 100 per cent. If we have time to fight for the title, I don't know.

"We weren't ready to fight for the title but I remember when I built Valencia they arrived twice in the final of the Champions League (in 2000 and 2001 after Ranieri left in 1999). It's difficult to say (if Leicester are ready) but it's good to go."

Jamie Vardy has also fallen behind Harry Kane in the race for the golden boot with the Foxes frontman on 19 league goals after his two strikes for England. Kane has 21 top-flight strikes and Ranieri wants his striker to top the charts.

"There's a big fight between him and Kane, I hope at the end Jamie can win this. I'd like him to. To score for his national team gives him a lot of confidence," Ranieri added.

"But we score not only with Jamie, he also makes fantastic assists and it's not important if Jamie scores or (Robert) Huth scores. For me, Kasper (Schmeichel) can score. It's important to win."