Craig Shakespeare targets Champions League return after fairytale ends

Atletico manager Simeone consoles Jamie Vardy

Atletico boss Diego Simeone consoled the Leicester players after they fell short of reaching the Champions League semi-finals in their debut campaign

We did believe we could win it - we weren't in it just to take part.

They never gave up and persevered until the end.

Leicester's players collapsed to the turf after a breathless second-half revival which, with a better roll of the ball, could have propelled them into dreamland.

That message echoed around late on Tuesday night, long after Atl├ętico Madrid had extinguished any hopes of adding another chapter to their fairytale.

Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez, picks up Antoine Griezmann as they celebrate after the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Leicester City and Atletico Madrid at King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. "Yes, absolutely", he replied.

Their exit brings to an end a golden adventure sparked by last seasons stunning Premier League title win.

"I feel emotion, pride and hope after such a tough game against a team which gave us so much pleasure to compete against, a team that did not throw in the towel and kept us at arms' length", said Simeone.

Defending a 2-1 lead Madrid were taken into extra time by the German club, who had midfielder Vidal unjustly sent off in the closing minutes.

Whether manager Craig Shakespeare will be in charge next season remains up in the air.

It was a carbon copy of the opener that Leicester had conceded in Sevilla.

"What they have proved to themselves (against Atletico) and over the last five or six weeks is when they play their best players, they are a good team, not a team that should be fighting relegation", he said. Before the season started, they did not even appear among the 450-plus clubs ranked.

He has now scored 85 goals in 85 appearances in the Champions League for Madrid.

But no one told Vardy the script and his determination and fight epitomised Leicester's battling qualities and, by the final whistle, the KP Stadium rose one last time for their heroes.

Arguably the biggest concern is Kasper Schmeichel, who is one of the few players to have enhanced his reputation during a hard season. Five minutes later, Saul beat Leicester goalkeeper Schmeichel with a flawless header after taking a great cross from Filipe Luis. A year ago, they were Premier League champions.

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?

Instead, the quarterfinal second leg provided a snapshot of the kind of resolve that stirred a remarkable chapter in the history of Leicester City.

The passports can be put away for now as staff, players and fans contemplate a more mundane schedule without Champions League football on the calendar.

A 2016/17 @ChampionsLeague that will live long in the memory.

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