Claudio Ranieri has revealed he never wanted to sell N’Golo Kante to Chelsea while Leicester City manager.
Kante joined the Premier League champions-elect last summer for £30m after acting as the driving force behind forwards Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in the Leicester midfield.
The 26-year-old had only spent one season with the Foxes after moving from Caen the year before and looks set to win back-to-back Premier League titles this term.
While Kante’s career improved after leaving the King Power Stadium, Ranieri has experienced a downturn and was sacked as manager in February, only nine months after achieving the impossible with Leicester.
“I didn’t want to sell Kante,” Ranieri said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“I didn’t want to sell Mahrez and Vardy because I believe these players were the heart of the team.
“I said to them ‘we have started making a fairytale which we can continue. I believe we can do something in the Champions League.’
“I said the biggest mistake was me believing in my players before I was sacked, but after I was sacked I realised I was right to believe in them.”
As important as the Frenchman was for Ranieri and Leicester, the Italian confessed not only was Southampton’s Jordy Clasie his primary target, but he intended to play Kante as a winger.
"At the beginning, we were looking at another international player to put there. Because we lost Cambiasso. He was the main man. I tried to keep him but he said no I want to go away.
“We wanted another international player but this player didn't choose Leicester, he chose another team in another country. In the end, we had Kante and Clasie. I said take Kante, I'd like Kante.
“I watched him two or three times. I started him as a left winger!
“I put him there because during the training session I said I had to find a solution for him. I started with him there but after I put him in the middle.
“How can I not put him in the team? He was there to support everybody. At the beginning I put him on the left but after I put him in the middle with Drinkwater because the couple made a very good difference.”