Nigel Pearson says Leicester City can make Champions League

Claudio Ranieri succeeded Nigel Pearson
Claudio Ranieri succeeded Nigel Pearson at Leicester City

Former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson says he thinks the club can finish in the top four of the Premier League.

The Foxes sacked Pearson and appointed Claudio Ranieri in the summer, then embarked on a run that saw them top the table at Christmas.

They are currently seven points clear of fifth place, with the top four earning a spot in the Champions League.

"The first half of the season shows they are capable," Pearson, 52, told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek.

"I don't see any reason why they can't [stay in the top four]. I think we've seen enough results this year to suggest the sides who have been promoted are doing well and the big guns are not having it their own way."

'I'm not angry'

In his first full season as a Premier League manager, Pearson more than once attracted controversy with his abrasive style, calling a journalist "an ostrich" at a news conference and becoming involved in a touchline altercation with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur.

But having led the Foxes to promotion from the Championship, he then oversaw seven wins from nine games late in the season to maintain their Premier League status a month before he was sacked.

The former central defender admits "it was a distressing time" but claims he is "not angry" and always had a "very good" relationship with the club's owners.

"Leicester continue to do exceptionally well and I can take quite a bit of pride in how well things have been set up," added the former Southampton manager.

"Some of the best work that was done doesn't necessarily coincide with when the results were going well."

Credit to Claudio

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri has not won a league title with any of the 15 clubs he has managed

Since taking charge of his 15th club, Ranieri, 64, has made just three additions to Pearson's squad in Gokhan Inler, N'Golo Kante and Yohan Benalouane.

The Italian - who has never won a league title - has played down his side's ambitions all season and said his players deserved "Champagne" for reaching the survival benchmark of 40 points thanks to a goalless draw with Bournemouth on Saturday.

"He inherited a side which is more than very good but you have to give him some credit for recognising that and not doing too much with it," Pearson said of his successor.

"Management comes in lots of different forms. One thing you have to credit Ranieri for is that it's rare to inherit a football club in a positive position. Normally there's a change because results aren't going well."

'I think Vardy will stay'

Nigel Pearson and Jamie Vardy
Pearson signed Vardy from Fleetwood for £1m

Leicester's shock position in the Premier League has been aided greatly by the form of striker Jamie Vardy. With 15 goals, the England international is the joint-highest scorer in the league alongside Everton's Romelu Lukaku.

Such form has seen Vardy linked with moves to clubs including Chelsea and Real Madrid, but his former manager does not think the former non-league man will leave in the January transfer window.

"I would encourage him to stay, but it's not for me to do that," said Pearson, who signed Vardy from Fleetwood Town for £1m in 2012.

"You've got to protect your own interests, but there comes a point when you have to recognise when to keep hold of a player and when they no longer want to be there.

"A player's state of mind is key. I think Vardy will stay there because he's a fantastic lad as well as a player, and they're such a strong group."

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