Former reigning Premier League champions Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has backed his former players saying they did not force him out of King Power Stadium but admitted the decision was a difficult to motivate.

Ranieri speaking to Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football via the Guardian, the Italian tactician gave a passionate defence of his former players but hinted all was not well behind the scenario with Leicester City.

He said:

I don’t believe rumours the players spoke to the Leicester owners about sacking me. I can’t believe the players killed me. No, no, no.

It wasn’t easy. I knew that the year after winning the title would be different. The players had to reset their minds – this wasn’t a team used to fighting at the top. We were a little team.

We had to stay calm. The players got to experience something totally different. In pre-season they played against big teams, went all over the world.

Claudio Ranieri also admit at conflict with others at the club, saying that “maybe it was someone behind me,” adding he “had a little problem” last season.

When questioned who those people might have been, the Italian manager said: “I am a serious man, a loyal man. What I have to say, I say face-to-face.”

Ranieri was dismissed after Leicester plummeted down the Premier League table during the defence of their title this season.