LONDON: Just when Claudio Ranieri thought he might be turning the corner, the Premier League title-winning manager was sacked by Leicester City.
With the Foxes hovering just one point above the relegation zone, the Italian was relieved of his duties after the team returned home from Wednesday night’s 2-1 Champions League defeat to Sevilla – a game in which Leicester showed much of their old fighting spirit on the second half.
In announcing Ranieri’s departure, the club paid tribute to his achievements as the club’s “most successful…manager of all time” but said their perilous league position required action. Assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and Mike Stowell will take interim charge ahead of Monday’s match against Liverpool.
Last season, Leicester defied 5000-1 odds to lift the Premier League trophy just one season after a late escape from relegation under Nigel Pearson. But this season the Foxes have been unable to replicate such form, and the problems have grown in recent weeks.
They have not tasted victory in their last nine outings, since a 2-1 away win at Everton in the FA Cup on January 7, with their last league victory a 1-0 win over West Ham on December 31.
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.”
Assistant manager and first team coach Paolo Benetti and sport science and conditioning coach Andrea Azzalin have also parted company with the club.