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Northern Ireland manager O'Neill can feel axed Ranieri's pain

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill says he feels Claudio Ranieri's pain after the Italian was kicked into touch by Leicester City.

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill is among the contenders to take charge of the Foxes though caretaker boss Craig Shakespeare is in pole position to land the post.

The 47-year-old came up against Ranieri when he was Greece boss during the Euro 2016 qualifiers and a 2-0 away win turned up the heat on the former Chelsea chief.

Ranieri, whose managerial career started in 1986 with Italian minnows Vigor Lamezia, paid the price for Greece's shocking campaign but he arrived at Leicester City in the summer of 2015 and the rest is glorious history.

The former Juventus and Roma boss may have masterminded a Premier League title triumph but he is Foxes history as well after being axed by the club last month, a decision which shocked many observers including O'Neill.

"I just think it's the nature of the game and quite sad because the idea of being a manager now is different, you don't manage a football club in the way you would have in the past," he said.

"You know you have to come in and get results quickly.

"A lot of people thought that he deserved longer and as a manager there's a part of me that feels that but today in the Premier League with the finances involved you are looking at £100million plus not being in the league to being in it, owners make decisions and they are so influential because they have put the investment into it and it's changed the landscape for the managers.

"It's sad that a manager who wins the Premier League, particularly at a club like Leicester, finds himself out of work six or seven months later so I do have a lot of sympathy for him.

"I do think he'll come back into the game, whether in the UK or not is another matter, or back in Italy or the international scene, but he has achieved something that will always be fondly remembered and he's certainly left his impact.

"His reputation in the past when he was at bigger clubs like Chelsea was established but people saw how he handled that campaign with Leicester and enjoyed that phenomenal achievement. It's just the nature of management that when results go against you you could be out of a job."

Shakespeare appears to have the backing of the Leicester players and his credentials for the top job are enhanced by back to back wins over Liverpool and Hull City.

O'Neill added: "Everyone has ambitions in football and we have seen our lads do well like Tommy Wright, who was my goalkeeping coach, now a successful manager at St Johnstone, Stephen Robinson has progressed from his days as an excellence coach with the IFA to now being a caretaker manager (with Motherwell) while Billy McKinlay and Austin McPhee have all progressed and some have still been able to work at international level."

He continued: "Football presents you with opportunities and Craig Shakespeare has that."

O'Neill added: "If you've been handed that opportunity why not take it?"

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