Leicester assistant manager Steve Walsh has been a key figure in the team's impressive recruitment drive

By Alex Stevens

Claudio Ranieri has revealed he almost signed Jordy Clasie instead of N’Golo Kante when he was manager of Leicester.

The Italian opened up about his time at Leicester as he spoke publicly for the first time since he was sacked in February.

Ranieri explained how Leicester’s fairytale Premier League triumph could have proved so very different if he had made one drastically different decision in the transfer market.

Appearing on Sky Sports 1’s Monday Night Football programme, the Italian revealed he was presented with two central midfield options by the club’s then transfer guru Steve Walsh when it became clear Esteban Cambiasso was leaving.

“I tried to keep Esteban Cambiasso here, but he said no, he wanted to go away,” Ranieri told Monday Night Football. “We wanted an international player, but this player didn’t choose Leicester, he chose another country and another player.

“So in the end we had Kante and [Jordy] Clasie. Steve Walsh told me these two names.

“I watch Kante three times, and said Kante. I put him on the left wing! Slowly I started with him there, but after I put him the middle. How can I not put him in the team?”

Holland international Clasie moved to Southampton instead and has been a regular in Claude Puel’s team without having anywhere near the impact Kante had as he inspired Leicester’s first-ever title.

Kante is proving equally inspirational at Chelsea and is now on course to repeat the trick by securing his second consecutive Premier League medal.

Given the recommendation of Walsh, who was appointed Everton’s director of football last summer, fans at Goodison will wonder whether Clasie could be a target for Ronald Koeman this summer.

The Merseysiders have already bought two central midfielders during Koeman’s reign, Morgan Schneiderlin from Manchester United in January and Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa last summer.

Meanwhile, the win by Everton against Leicester at the weekend drew them level on points with Arsenal (54), although Arsene Wenger’s side have two matches in hand.

The Toffees are seventh in the league, seven points adrift of Manchester City in fourth.

In other Everton transfer news, the club are close to reaching an agreement to sign a brilliant striker.

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