London - The
anguished tone in Kasper Schmeichel's voice told the story of the
turmoil gripping Leicester as the Premier League champions slumped into a
relegation crisis that triggered Claudio Ranieri's brutal sacking on
"We're the reigning champions and quite frankly it's been terrible.
It's been embarrassing," the Leicester goalkeeper told a television
reporter after a dismal 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United on
"It's time for every single one of us, right from the top to the
bottom of this club, to stand up and be counted because if we don't,
we're going to end up getting relegated."
A year on from a stunning 3-1 win at Manchester City that sent them
five points clear at the league summit, the loss to United left
Ranieri's men a solitary point above the relegation zone.
Leicester's Thai owners felt compelled to issue a vote of confidence
in Ranieri, but the team remained in dire trouble after an even more
damaging 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Swansea days later and the
beleaguered Italian was about to pay the price.
Reports emerged that Ranieri was unable to quell squad unrest over
his tactics and selection decisions, with the former Chelsea boss forced
to deny claims his players were unhappy he had banned chicken burgers
from the training ground canteen.
A 1-0 loss at third tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on
Saturday, in which his lethargic side were out-fought by 10 men for much
of the second half, was another huge blow to Ranieri's credibility.
His team had lost their past five league matches and were the only
side in the top four English divisions without a league goal in 2017.
The final straw came in Sevilla, where Leicester were beaten 2-1 in a
Champions League last 16 first leg clash that the Spanish side could
easily have won by a far greater margin.
Ranieri had only signed a new contract in August, but by the time Leicester arrived home, he was a dead man walking.
Only 292 days after Leicester's title triumph climaxed with the
trophy presentation amid fireworks and a fanfare from opera singer
Andrea Bocelli, Ranieri discovered his time was up.
It was a stunningly abrupt end to Ranieri's reign and many had sympathy for the genial coach's demise.
"After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack
him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad,"
Leicester legend Gary Lineker said.
But money talks loudest in the Premier League and the risk of losing
over £150 million in television and commercial revenue if Leicester were
relegated was too much for vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha to
stomach with only 13 games remaining.
Leicester's woes were embodied by the woeful form of Jamie Vardy and
Riyad Mahrez, the rough-cut attacking stars whose goals and assists
catapulted the Foxes to the title.
N'Golo Kante, Leicester's other stand-out player last season, was the
only departure during the close season and the club have failed to plug
the hole created by his move to current leaders Chelsea.
Injury has hampered Nampalys Mendy since he signed from Nice and with
Daniel Amartey an unconvincing stop-gap, Leicester splashed out £15
million to sign Wilfred Ndidi last
Leicester lost head of recruitment Steve Walsh to Everton after last
season's triumph and their transfer activity since has been patchy.
Ahmed Musa has not convinced, Mendy has barely played, Ron-Robert
Zieler has looked a less than capable deputy for Schmeichel and Luis
Hernandez lasted just half a season before being sold to Malaga.
Ranieri stuck with a tried and tested 4-4-2 system throughout last
season, but the Italian's attempts to broaden his players' horizons this
term produced some confused performances.
Just nine months after the dizzy climax to their 5 000/1 title
triumph, Leicester now face the prospect of becoming England's first
defending champions to be relegated since Manchester City in 1938.
Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and ex-Chelsea boss
Avram Grant are reportedly among the contenders to replace Ranieri.
Survival will be the new man's only mission this season, but whoever
comes in has little time to stop Leicester's rags to riches rise coming
to a depressing conclusion.
Leicester City statement on Claudio Ranieri
Leicester City Football Club has tonight (Thursday) parted company with its First Team Manager, Claudio Ranieri. 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. Vice Chairman Aiyawatt 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.” First Team preparations for Monday’s Premier League fixture against Liverpool will resume on Saturday, with Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell taking charge of the squad until a new manager is appointed.
Assistant Manager and First Team Coach Paolo Benetti and First Team Sport Science and Conditioning Coach Andrea Azzalin have also parted company with the Club and leave with our thanks for their service and best wishes for the future.
The Board will now begin the recruitment process and will make no further comment until that process is completed.
Leicester face Liverpool on Monday, February 27 in their next English Premiership fixture.