Decision to axe Italian legend is branded unforgivable
Claudio Ranieri, the manager who made Leicester City a household name in every corner of the globe by accomplishing one of most remarkable successes sport has known, has been sacked just 297 days after taking his side to the Premier League title against odds of 5000-1.
Ranieri’s dismissal was greeted with astonishment, with the club’s former striker and England international Gary Lineker describing it as “inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad”.
Leicester’s Thai owners invited further scorn by not even citing the Premier League title among his achievements in a brief statement confirming their decision.
Leicester’s performance against Sevilla in the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday night was indifferent, despite the second half goal which gives them hope of progress, and the defender Danny Simpson admitted before leaving the stadium that he had struggled to look in the mirror some days this season.
But just two weeks ago, the club's owners offered Ranieri their "unwavering support" amid a string of poor results and signs of player unhappiness, with Leonardo Ulloa's agent a vocal critic after the player failed to get a move.
The owners said that success had been "based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges".
Now, with the team which won last season's title by 10 points just one point above the relegation zone with five league wins to their name all season, the owners have lost patience.
It is thought that the FA Cup defeat at Millwall was viewed negatively by the Thais, though Ranieri fielded a weaker side to enhance his hopes of a performance in Sevilla.
Some players are also thought to have been unconvinced by his tactical decisions, in a season during which the arrival of new players has seen new strategies which have not worked out.
Leicester spent a club record £29m on striker Islam Slimani last summer and making use of that investment has entailed a wholesale change in approach.
A statement from the club's vice-chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, said: "This has been the most difficult decision.
"But we are duty-bound to put the club's interests above all sense of personal sentiment.
"We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve. It was never our expectation that the extraordinary feats of last season should be replicated this season. Indeed, survival in the Premier League was our first and only target at the start of the campaign. But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective."
Leicester do not play until Monday, when Liverpool are their hosts, and could therefore be in the bottom three by then. The Foxes' assistant manager, Craig Shakespeare, and the first-team coach, Mike Stowell, will take charge of the squad while the search for a new manager gets under way.