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Future remains uncertain for miracle club

LEICESTER (UK)

Their Champions League escapades ended by Atletico Madrid, Leicester City return to a normality they last experienced before their fairytale Premier League title win electrified world football.

“Life as a Leicester fan returns to normal, but it’s been bloody brilliant fun,” tweeted Gary Lineker, Leicester’s most famous ex-player, after Tuesday’s quarter-final exit at Atletico’s hands.

Leicester’s Champions League bow, which featured a near-faultless group-stage performance and a stirring last 16 success over Sevilla, gave the club a thrilling feel for life among Europe’s elite.

But with Leicester currently 12th in the Premier League table, there are no expectations they will return to Europe’s top table anytime soon.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for everyone at Leicester and they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives,” said former Foxes striker Tony Cottee on Sky Sports.

“But can I ever see Leicester playing in the Champions League again? Not in my lifetime.”

In reaching the last eight in their maiden Champions League campaign, Leicester bettered the competition debuts of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City (since the tournament’s 1992 rebrand).

Their battling display against Atletico, who prevailed 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw on Tuesday, won them universal praise.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone made a point of saluting each of Leicester’s players at the final whistle, while the most commonly used adjective on Wednesday’s British sports pages was “brave”.

But after the giddy highs of the last 12 months, which fleetingly made the King Power Stadium the epicentre of the sporting universe, Leicester now face an uncertain future.

Manager Craig Shakespeare, who has revitalised the team since succeeding the sacked Claudio Ranieri, is out of contract at the end of the season.

Do Leicester’s owners, Thai travel retail group King Power, reward him for his work or go in search of a more seasoned coach who might be able to lead the club to the next level?

While they lost N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, Leicester managed to keep the rest of their title-winning squad intact, tying many of their players to new contracts.

But having had a tantalising taste of the big time, might players like Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy be tempted to
seek pastures new in search of more enduring exposure to European competition?

Agence France-Presse