Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho insists Leicester are not genuine title contenders – but admits the Premier League table toppers are doing “incredibly well” and “deserve respect” for their start to the season.
Mourinho, whose Chelsea side have endured their worst start to a Premier League season and lie 15th with 14 points from 13 games, believes Leicester and manager Claudio Ranieri have done “amazingly” and “deserve respect”.
The Foxes’ 3-0 win at Newcastle on Saturday – coupled with defeats for Manchester City and Arsenal – meant Leicester went top of the Premier League table for the first time since October 2000.
But the Portuguese manager, speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League clash against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, believes Ranieri and the Leicester players would “not be insulted” by him ruling the Midlands club out of the title race.
“Whether they be title contenders or not, we should focus on what they are doing and say they are doing amazingly well,” Mourinho said.
“I am happy to see somebody in Ranieri that, when he signed for Leicester, all the bets were that he’d be the first one to be sacked, but he is top of the league.
“I don’t think Ranieri and the Leicester players will insult me if I say I don’t believe they are going to be champions. I think they will accept my comment and feel more my compliments. They deserve respect for what they are doing.”
Mourinho was also careful when answering a question about Jamie Vardy’s success.
The England striker equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League games on Saturday, and Mourinho said: “I don’t want to analyse the boy because if I do you will take my words and put them in a different perspective, and say I want to or do not want to sign him.
“The point is a super striker like Van Nistelrooy did something historical in the Premier League, and the reality is that Vardy has equalled that and has the chance to make history. So what he is doing is remarkable.”