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Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri in his final word as the Foxes boss, says his “dream died” after being sacked nine months after winning the Premier League.
The 65-year-old Italian manager, guided the City’s to the title despite the Foxes being rated 5,000-1 shots at the start of last season.
With just 13 matches left, the Foxes are one point above the relegation zone.
“After the euphoria of last season and being crowned champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester. Sadly this was not to be,” Ranieri said.
“The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever. My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club, everybody who 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 achieved together and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.
“It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget. It’s been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.”
His departure from King Power Stadium came less than 24 hours after his former side Wednesday’s 2-1 loss against Sevilla in their first tier of Champions League last 16 tie. They welcome the Sevillistas Los Blanquirrojos at the King Power Stadium on 14 March for their second leg. Leicester was knocked out of the FA Cup on Saturday by League One Millwall.
Leicester vice-chairman in explaining the club’s decision said, “long-term interests” had been put above “personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be”.
The Foxes could emerge as the first defending champions (after Manchester City) since 1938 to be relegated as they’ve won just five top-flights games this season. They took last’s campaign Premier League title by 10 points clear above Arsenal.
The reigning champions have lost their past five league matches and stands as the only side in the top four English divisions without a league goal in 2017.
Leicester caretaker boss Craig Shakespeare, speaking earlier on Friday denied a player upheaval led to the former Internationzale and Monaco boss sacking.
Per BBC SPORT, some Foxes players were called to meet with the club’s chairman after their side tragic defeat by Sevilla, and his fate was sealed by the negative reaction.
“There was a lot of frustration because of the results, but he had not lost the dressing room,” Shakespeare said.
“A lot of the talk of unrest has been speculation. I’ve not had one problem with the players.
“I always feel sorry when people lose their jobs. My relationship with Claudio has been fine all along.
“I spoke to him last night and he thanked me for my support throughout. It was not brief and we exchanged views. A lot of what we said will stay private.”
Shakespeare and first-team coach Mike Stowell will take charge of the squad until a new manager is appointed.
Shakespeare and first-team coach Mike Stowell will continue with the squad prior to when a new manager is appointed for the club.
Paolo Benetti and Andrea Azzalin both Ranieri’s compatriots who are also key members of his coaching staff, have left the club.
Who might replace the Italian?
If reports are to be believed, former Manchester and Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini and Nigel Pearson, who the Italian tactician replaced in 2015, are the favourites to take over at Leicester.
Also, suggestions have also raised that ex-Brimingham boss Gary Rowett, a one-time Leicester player is also said to around fifth likely to take over at Leicester. Rowett told BBC Radio 5 live via BBC News: “I’m sat at home waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Leicester would be an amazing one, but it’s still raw for everyone.”
He played for the Foxes between 2002 and 2002, Rowett was controversially sacked by Birmingham hierarchy’s in December and was replaced by former Chelsea skipper Gianfranco Zola.
“I played there for two years so I’ve had good experiences at Leicester and it’s an excellent club. It would be a daunting one for anyone and a fantastic opportunity for someone,” he added.
Ranieri’s statement in full
Yesterday my dream died.
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 during my time at Leicester.
My thanks go to Paolo and Andrea, who accompanied me on this wonderful journey. To Steve Kutner [Ranieri’s agent] and Franco Granello [his Italian agent] for bringing me the opportunity to become a champion.
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 came with us and 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 that I will never forget. It’s been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.