Ranieri hails 'special' Ballon d'Or nominations for Vardy and Mahrez

With two Leicester stars on the Ballon d'Or shortlist, Claudio Ranieri has hailed a "special" achievement for Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

Claudio Ranieri has revealed his pride at seeing Leicester City stars Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy nominated for the Ballon d'Or.

After helping Leicester to a stunning Premier League title win in 2015-16, the attacking pair both made it onto a 30-man shortlist of the best players on the planet.

Vardy inspired their fine form with 24 top-flight goals and a record-breaking run that saw him find the net in 11 successive matches, while Mahrez contributed 17 goals and 11 assists.

Foxes manager Ranieri described the recognition of their contributions as "something special" for the players and the club.

"This achievement is one of the best," he told a news conference ahead of Leicester's trip to Tottenham on Saturday.

"To be nominated is something special. I don't know [if they can win it]. I hope so – but I don't know."

Ranieri also reserved words of praise for Shinji Okazaki, who was on target as Leicester secured a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Japan international had not started in over a month, and the Italian credited him with stirring the champions from their indifferent form.

"He is a hard worker and sometimes he's not so close to goal, but when there is a ball around the box Shinji is always there," said Ranieri.

"For me, he is very important for the team because he presses a lot. He is our dilly-ding dilly-dong. He wakes up all the players, he wakes up everybody. He has the bell!"