Ranieri – replaced as Chelsea manager by Mourinho in the ‘Special One’s’ first coming at Stamford Bridge more than a decade ago – has the prize they all want after guiding Leicester to the Premier League crown in remarkable style last season.
And after the triumph of his under-dogs, Ranieri insists the pressure to win it this time is all on the big names with the biggest spending power as they scrap to regain former glories.
“For this reason they must win,” he said. “Everything’s different now. You imagine the big teams who didn’t win…who didn’t make the Champions’ League.
“They are going crazy now – they want to kill now. Not just us but all the other teams.
Claudio Ranieri has fired a warning to his title rivals
Antonio Conte is fantastic …everybody knows Jose. Pep Guardiola is an amazing person and a good manager
“They both have new managers, fantastic managers. Antonio Conte is fantastic …everybody knows Jose. Pep Guardiola is an amazing person and a good manager.
“I’m laughing because at the end only one will win And the pressure is not on me, it’s on them.”
Ranieri knows his Foxes will now be the hunted and seen as a major scalp after stunning the world of football to win their first top-flight title in last season’s fairytale finish.
But the wily Italian has already proved his greatness and believes there will be a different type of focus on his side this time around, in a campaign which will also include a first experience of the Champions League.
He said: “People are just curious. What will happen with Leicester? What can Leicester do next season?
“Repeat? I say repeat at that level (of play) – not to win. To win is a dream. I want to see if the bookmakers make us 5,000/1 again.
“I want to see my team fighting the same.
“But I want to see the same atmosphere with our fans. Then if we lose, okay, clap, go and shower and in the next match fight again.
“We know last season everything was good, good, good, good. But we have to believe this and if we lose, no problem, restart and never give up. This is my philosophy.”
Leicester start their pre-season programme at Oxford tonight and Ranieri admits that with the added benefit of a summer holiday behind him, he looks upon their title success as a life-changing moment – 20 years on from when he started out in management.
But the 64-year-old is adamant he remains the same person with the same outlook on life and football.
He said: “So many people came to me and asked me what had just happened. Then I understood, this had changed my life. Of course my life was also fantastic before – but something special happened.
“I am no different, I am the same. I know football. Now everyone is happy. Maybe we lose two matches and everybody will say ‘Oh what’s happened? You are under pressure blah, blah, blah.
“I am a positive man. I am so curious – as are you – about the new season and what’s going to happen this season. Let’s enjoy.”
In a blow to Ranieri’s plans, Leicester have lost the services of key midfielder N’Golo Kante following the France international’s £30m move to Chelsea.
But star striker Jamie Vardy rebuffed Arsenal’s advances to stay and Ranieri – who has strengthened with the signings of forward Ahmed Musa, goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, defender Luis Hernandez and midfielder Nampalys Mendy – believes the sum of the parts will always be the key to his success.
He said: “I don’t just watch the quality of the players, I try to see the quality of the man to come here and link here. Our strength is the union, the community, the spirit.
“If you make one mistake it is okay, two mistakes the group is not good. It is like when you eat something you are allergic too, once it is okay, the second (time) you are sick.”