Leicester to train young Chinese players: Vice chairman
London: Newly-crowned English Premier League champions Leicester will train Chinese at their academy and "do everything they can" to help the country improve, the club's vice chairman has said.
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the son of billionaire club owner and chairman Vichai, was proud of his Chinese ancestry and can even speak a few words of Mandarin, reports Xinhua news agency.
"I love China. My grandfather was Chinese and I love you. Thank you," he said in Chinese on Sunday.
Aiyawatt admitted Leicester has been seeking Chinese players for the team.
"I flied to China many times with our scouts and football director to see possible players from China," he said.
Aiyawatt said that under a project created two years ago Leicester will bring 15 or 16 Chinese players for a two-year training programme. And hopefully, some of them will rise to play in Leicester or other English clubs.
"We will send scouting team to China to bring the boys to Leicester," he said. "They will stay here for two and a half years to study English and football."
"If you want to be successful, you need to leave your hometown, challenge yourself and change the behaviour of thinking. To stay away from hometown, they can learn from other players, culture and develop a lot."
"Some boys from Thailand are already there under that kind of project. If the project happens in China, I am sure we can find 11 players from one billion people. In 10 years, there will be more than 100 players to play in Leicester."
He added the youngsters must be 16 years old and after two years they can choose to stay or return to China.
"If they go back to the Chinese league, they will develop their league for sure. If they have the talent, they can play at England or Europe," he said.
Leicester's win in the Premier League has inspired teams like China and Aiyawatt believes China can qualify for the World Cup if they do it right.
Aiyawatt claimed Leicester will tap into China's vast market and create an academy in the world's most populous country. "It will be nice. We will do it one day," he said.
Before the last home game against Everton, Aiyawatt asked the players to win the match even though they had sealed the title.
"I told the players that we need to win this game any way. We need to perform well at home to show the fans we can still win the Premier League even if Chelsea had not drawn with Tottenham, show them how the Premier League champions play football and show them we don't rely on Chelsea."
"The spirit of the team is superb. They are like a family," he said of the 3-1 victory.
The Thai family, who bought Leicester in 2010, had been losing money for four years before the team were promoted to the English Premier League in 2014. They are expected to earn 150 million pounds ($215.5) next season. But Aiyawatt said they will not buy big names for their Champions League campaign.
"It depends on the manager. I believe in my staff, I believe in my manager," he said. "After the Chelsea game on Sunday in the last game, we will sit down and talk. The team is doing the whole work to find the players, to find how much we are going to spend.
"To spend crazy money is not our plan. But we have to buy the players who are good for us and who can cover the space where we are weak. You have to be reasonable to spend the money. If you buy some players with crazy money, it is not fair for the players this season who have fought for the club to win the champion."
With players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez becoming superstars, there are a lot of people who are skeptical about their future next season but Aiyawatt said he will try best to keep every player.
"I think they are happy at the club. We are going to play the champions league next year. So why are they going to move out? Will they move to a club who cannot play the Champions League just for money? I don't think so."
"About the money and the contract, we talk to them all the time to improve the money because it is a win-win situation. We will try to improve the contract with all the players. I will try everything I can to let them stay at the club."
Aiyawat said they will talk to manager Claudio Ranieri on extending his contract, which runs until 2018.
"Claudio loves the club, he wants to stay. He still has two years on his contract. We want to talk to him for sure. I don't think he will move anywhere. Next season we will play the Champions League. It is good connection between him, the football director, the CEO and the owner. It is like a family. He is special," he concluded.