Leicester City have sacked Claudio Ranieri 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 win 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 are still in with a chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Champions League following Wednesday’s 2-1 round-of-16 first-leg defeat to Sevilla, but the club have opted to remove Ranieri ahead of Monday’s Premier League clash against Liverpool.
A Leicester statement read: “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.”
Leicester were favourites to be relegated upon Ranieri’s appointment, 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 issued Ranieri a vote of confidence 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 were dumped out of the FA Cup last weekend by League One side Millwall, who were reduced to 10 men, and 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 manager 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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