SEVILLE (Reuters) - Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said his side’s Champions League opponents Leicester City and beleaguered coach Claudio Ranieri cannot live on past glories as they try to rescue a disastrous season that has taken them to the brink of relegation.
Leicester’s sensational title win last season has been hailed as one of the greatest sporting miracles of all time but the memory of their historic triumph has been overshadowed by their domestic slump this campaign.
The champions are hovering one point above the relegation zone and were sent crashing out of the FA Cup on Saturday by League One side Millwall, yet Ranieri has avoided the sack on the strength of last year’s remarkable campaign.
His opposite number Sampaoli, by contrast, is one of the most wanted coaches in Europe after inspiring Sevilla to a title tilt with serial La Liga winners Real Madrid and Barcelona and warned that past triumphs count for nothing.
“Today we are not talking about the team that won the league so brilliantly, we’re talking about one that is not doing well and is fighting relegation. You have to talk about the present,” Sampaoli told a news conference on Tuesday.
“Common sense says someone who had so much success with so few resources can lift the team again although that is for the people in charge of Leicester to decide. But the present is more important than the past, even with an achievement as incredible as theirs.”
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has been one of the symbols of the team’s decline, scoring just five times in the league compared to his haul of 24 goals last campaign, although Sampaoli said his side were still wary of the danger he poses.
“Goalscorers live for the moment and Vardy was fundamental last year. When he rediscovers his goalscoring touch Leicester will be a dangerous team again,” added the Argentine.
Sampaoli’s achievements in his maiden season in European soccer have made him one of the favourites to take over at Barcelona if Luis Enrique leaves the Spanish champions in the summer.
The coach acknowledged Sevilla have spoken to him about extending his contract beyond 2018 but said he would not distract himself with thoughts about his future before Sevilla’s first Champions League knock-out tie in six years.
“I‘m pleased that the club want to renew my contract but I only want to live in the moment so it’s difficult to think about the future when the present is so exciting,” he said.
“We have the chance to be among the best eight teams in Europe and that’s more important than the future.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Richard Lough