Mandaric defends return with Leicester

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The Independent Football

The former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric has rejected suggestions that his plans to take over Leicester are a betrayal of his Pompey roots.

Mandaric's £25 million takeover of the Championship club could be completed as soon as today but it has led to criticism from Portsmouth fans that it is too soon after he left Fratton Park.

But the Serb-American businessman - in charge of Pompey for seven and a half years before being bought out by Alexandre Gaydamak - believes he should be free to invest his money where he chooses.

Mandaric said: "I always promised I would never leave Pompey in trouble, like when they were in danger of relegation from the old First Division. Instead I left Pompey in tremendous shape, near the top of the Premiership.

"I've helped put the club on the map. I get happier about that with every additional three points Pompey get. I didn't need to sell the club, but thought it was in the best interest of the club to do so. If I go to Leicester, supporters should be happy that I'm still in football, rather than disappearing and not being heard of again. I'm not ready to retire.

"If I go to Leicester, it's not to a club that is an unfriendly one to us. But whether I go to Leicester or Barcelona, Pompey will always be special in my heart. I might fall in love again, but nothing will replace Pompey.

"It was an unbelievable relationship. We've got fantastic memories. I might develop another good relationship, but nothing will ever replace the one I developed with Pompey fans. We will always be friends.

"I've had letters from Pompey fans wishing me the best and saying what I did for the club was immeasurable. That's fantastic."

Meanwhile, the Portsmouth midfielder Gary O'Neil admits there would have been "panic" in the camp had the team failed to produce one of their best performances of the season to beat Reading 3-1 last Saturday.

Pompey go to Old Trafford on Saturday and if they had lost to the newly-promoted Royals it would have been their fifth defeat in six games. O'Neil said: "I don't think there was one bad performance out there. It was a massive game for us, vitally important to get the three points, but it would have been quite easy to have had a slip-up and then everyone would have been panicking about the Manchester United game.

"But we showed once again we seem to have an understanding going all over the pitch. People know what others are doing. This was up there among our best performances this season, especially in the second half. It was a very good performance, both on and off the ball."