Newly promoted Leicester eye top five Premier League place
The Thai owners of newly promoted Leicester City are willing to spend $300 million to achieve their goal of finishing in the top five of the English Premier League within the next three seasons.
Leicester sealed a place in the lucrative top flight of English football by winning the Championship title last month, ending a decade-long absence from the Premier League.
Like all promoted clubs, survival is the initial goal for Leicester but billionaire chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has grander notions in the years ahead.
"We want to stay in the EPL as long as possible," Vichai told reporters in Bangkok on Monday after the team enjoyed a three-day stay in the Thai holiday destination of Phuket.
"But we won't take the huge leap to challenge the league's top five clubs immediately.
"Do we have a chance to beat them? Yes, we have, but I think we need to establish our foothold in the league first and then we think about our next step.
"It will take a huge amount of money, possibly 10 billion Thai Baht ($306.56 million), to get there. But that doesn't put us off. I am asking for three years, and we'll be there."
Leicester, three-times League Cup winners, were relegated from the Premier League in 2004 and then fell to the third tier in 2008.
Manager Nigel Pearson took them back to the Championship at the first attempt before leaving for Hull City, only to return in 2011 and lead them up to the top flight.
The former Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough defender shared Virat's optimism.
"We have to be adaptable when we play big teams. But, the important thing is we're going with a belief that we can achieve," he said after showing off the Championship trophy to fans in the Thai capital.
"I want to set high standards for ourselves. The next challenge for us as a club is to establish ourselves in the EPL.
"We're not going to make up the numbers. We want to be competitive. We've tasted success now. It's important we continue to improve everything about ourselves. So, we can challenge for the top five.
"But, of course, one step at the time. The boys are really looking forward to playing with some of the best teams in the world."
Virat, who previously had a VIP box at Chelsea where he also bought advertising space for his King Power retail group, took over Leicester with a consortium in 2010.
He said he had ignored the opportunity to invest in a Premier League club in favour of taking on the challenge of leading one there.
"After spending time studying many clubs, I fell in love with Leicester. One reason was the team's colours, which were the same as my company's," he said.
"The other was the fact that they were playing in the second tier at the time. I thought if we bought an EPL club it wouldn't be challenging enough. If we could lead this team to the EPL, that would be a real challenge."
($1 = 32.6200 Thai Baht)