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Gutted Claudio Ranieri still feels blessed after his dream dies

By Nick Mashiter

Claudio Ranieri has said his "dream died" when Leicester sacked him. The Italian led the Foxes to a shock Premier League title last season but was axed on Thursday with the club a point above the relegation zone.

Leicester have lost their last five league games and are yet to score in the top flight in 2017 ahead of Monday's visit of Liverpool.

"Yesterday, my dream died," he said in a statement. "After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always.

"Sadly this was not to be. I wish to thank my wife Rosanna and all my family for their never ending support.

"Mostly I have to thank Leicester City Football Club. The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever.

"Thank you to all the journalists and the media who enjoyed reporting on the greatest story in football.

"My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club, all the players, the staff, everybody who was there and was part of what we achieved. But mostly to the supporters. You took me into your hearts from day one and loved me. I love you too.

"No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

"It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness I will never forget. It's been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you."

The last weeks of Ranieri's reign were dogged by rumours of dressing room unrest but caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare has denied he lost the players.

Reports had suggested some players had spoken to the club's Thai owners to voice their concerns over Ranieri's reign.

"I'm not aware of any senior players going to the owners," he said.

"There was a lot of frustration because of results but he hadn't lost the dressing room."

The Foxes flew back on Thursday following the 2-1 Champions League defeat at Sevilla, and Ranieri was told he was fired by Director of Football Jon Rudkin when they landed.

Shakespeare admitted no one, including Ranieri, saw the decision coming and also insisted his relationship with the former manager had not soured.

He said: "My relationship with Claudio has been perfectly fine all the way along. I have never had a problem with him, he has never had a problem with me. I spoke to him after the news broke and he thanked me for my support."

Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini, one of the early names linked to the job, has expressed his sympathy for his compatriot.

The former Manchester City manager, who had a short spell as a player with the Foxes in 2001 and is available after leaving Inter Milan last year, is the favourite to permanently replace Ranieri.

Mancini said on Twitter: "I am sorry for my friend #Ranieri. He will remain in the history of @LCFC, in the heart of #Leicester fans and all football lovers."

Former Northern Ireland international and Leicester City winger Keith Gillespie vented his disgust on Twitter, commenting: 'Shocking decision by Leicester City - Ultimate betrayal of a very honourable man.'

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