Leicester City sacked manager Claudio Ranieri on Thursday, just nine months after he led the club to their first Premier League title.
Ranieri guided Leicester to the most unlikely of title wins last season and went on to claim FIFA’s Coach of the Year for the achievement.
However, Ranieri and Leicester have struggled this season, with the club sitting just one point and one position above the relegation zone, having failed to score a single league goal in 2017.
Leicester still have a chance of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals following Wednesday’s 2-1 round-of-16 first-leg defeat to Sevilla, but as the prospect of Premier League relegation would mean losing over £100 million, the club opted to remove Ranieri ahead of Monday’s clash against Liverpool.
A Leicester statement read: “Leicester City Football Club has tonight [Thursday] parted company with its first team manager, Claudio Ranieri.
Club statement: #lcfc and Claudio Ranieri part company: https://t.co/C5qnSVxDgU pic.twitter.com/VqlHy1I6Ut
– Leicester City (@LCFC) February 23, 2017
“Claudio, appointed City manager in July 2015, led the Foxes to the greatest triumph in the club’s 133-year history last season, as we were crowned champions of England for the first time. His status as the most successful Leicester City manager of all time is without question.
“However, domestic results in the current campaign have placed the club’s Premier League status under threat, and the board reluctantly feels that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club’s greatest interest.”
The departure of Ranieri means that four of the last five Premier League-winning managers have left their jobs before the end of the following season, following Roberto Mancini (2011-12 winner, sacked May 2013), Sir Alex Ferguson (2012-13 winner, retired May 2013) and Jose Mourinho (2015-16 winner, sacked December 2015).
Leicester were favourites to be relegated upon Ranieri’s appointment in July 2015, having been involved in a relegation fight the season before under Nigel Pearson.
However, inspired by players including Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, Leicester went on to challenge at the top of the table, eventually seeing off Tottenham to the title.
But Leicester were unable to keep hold of Kante in the summer, with the midfielder leaving for Chelsea, while Vardy and Mahrez have struggled to replicate last season’s form, contributing to Leicester’s decline.
Leicester gave Ranieri a contract extension in August and issued a vote of confidence for their manager earlier this month, saying he had their “unwavering support,” but vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said it was in the best interests of the club for the 65-year-old to be dismissed.
Srivaddhanaprabha said: “This has been the most difficult decision we have had to make in nearly seven years since King Power took ownership of Leicester City. But we are duty-bound to put the club’s long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be.
“Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skilful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City. His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale. 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 and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games.”
Leicester have lost seven of their past nine games in all competitions, with the only win in that span an FA Cup replay against Derby County. They were dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend by third-tier Millwall, who were reduced to 10 men, leading Ranieri hit out at his players after the game.
“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.”
Assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and first-team coach Mike Stowell, meanwhile, will take charge of the Leicester squad until a new manager is appointed.
Ranieri’s assistant and first-team coach Paolo Benetti, as well as his first-team sport science and conditioning coach Andrea Azzalin, have also departed with him.
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