Claudio Ranieri admits the 2016-17 campaign has offered a reality check to Leicester City on the back of their fairytale run to the Premier League title last season.
In the words of their manager, the Foxes lived out a sporting “fantasy” last term, as a “crazy season” swept them to the top of the table.
The 5,000/1 outsiders not only beat the bookies, but also English football’s superpowers as they claimed a spectacular crown.
Those at the King Power Stadium have been brought back down to earth with a bump this time around, though, with there just five points separating the defending champions from the top-flight drop zone.
Ranieri has been around long enough to know that highs and lows are all part of the game and insists that his focus has never changed throughout a remarkable rollercoaster of emotions.
He told Laureus after seeing Leicester nominated for a prestigious World Breakthrough of the Year award: “Last season was amazing, but it was a crazy season.
“This season, we knew the established top teams would come back strongly and ready to fight for the title again and it would be difficult for us. So we set our target at 40 points, just as we did last season, to make sure the team is safe in the Premier League. That has always been the most important target for us this season.
“Last season was a fantasy season. This season is the reality.”
Part of that reality for the Foxes has been a first foray into the Champions League, with impressive progress made to the last-16 stage – although Ranieri is again taking things one step at a time and refusing to get away by their continental exploits.
He added: “This is Leicester’s first season in the Champions League, so our focus was on trying to win some games and, if it’s possible, to continue our European adventure – either in the Europa League or the Champions League.
“We managed to win our group, which was a fantastic effort from everybody and now we have a tough tie against Sevilla in the Last 16. When it comes to the Champions League, I cannot think any further ahead than that.”
On the back of their title-winning success, leading figures at Leicester have collected some major individual honours.
Riyad Mahrez scooped the PFA Player of the Year prize, while Ranieri was named Premier League Manager of the Year, BBC Coach of the Year at the Sports Personality awards and Best Football Coach at the recent FIFA gala.
It could be that another trophy will soon be winging its way to the King Power Stadium, with the Foxes honoured to have seen their achievements recognised by Laureus.
Ranieri said: “The respect that comes with a Laureus Award is very special. You only have to look at the big champions that have won Laureus Awards in the past to know how important they are.
“To many people around the world, Leicester City was an unknown team before 2016. To be nominated for a Laureus Award introduces the club to the whole world.”