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Friday 18 August 2017

Dilly-ding, dilly-gone: Ranieri's exit shows cut-throat face of modern football

Claudio Ranieri is out as Leicester manager
Claudio Ranieri is out as Leicester manager

Can something be shocking yet also inevitable?

Claudio Ranieri's fate feels just that way.

Less than 10 months since Leicester completed one of most remarkable triumphs in sporting history, the club have parted company with a man they are sure to erect a statue to.

Never mind dilly-ding dilly-dong; it is dilly-ding dilly-gone.

For many, Ranieri's departure highlights modern football at its worst.

On February 7, the club pledged their "unwavering support" to the manager that gave them the greatest days in their history.

On February 23, Leicester now "reluctantly feel that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club's greatest interest".

That "interest" relates purely to pride and income as relegation would not sully last season's triumph, nor would it seriously hamper the club's standing.

But this is modern football and, as vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha puts it, the club are merely putting "long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be".

And it is a departure that makes sense if you take this season in isolation.

Tactics have puzzled and signings underwhelmed as talk of discontent with the dressing room has grown by the week.

The Foxes have lost five league matches in a row - the first reigning top-flight champions to do so since 1956 - but most concerning has been the inability to avert the downward trend.

Leicester's fall has been nearly as stark as their rise, leaving them one point off the relegation zone with just 13 matches remaining.

A change was needed and it simply is not possible to rip up the squad and start again, no matter how tempting it is given the way last year's stars have so badly let their manager down.

Jamie Vardy's Champions League strike at Sevilla on Wednesday was an all-too-rare flash of quality from a man that captivated the nation last season.

The formerly inspirational Riyad Mahrez has flattered to deceive and the defensive solidity that became such a key part during the title-winning campaign has become more feeble by the game.

There is no doubt N'Golo Kante's exit has left a gaping void at the King Power Stadium, but those remaining need to have a word with themselves - no matter how much aspects of Ranieri's management may have grated on them.

Roberto Mancini, Guus Hiddink and even Ranieri's predecessor Nigel Pearson have been linked with a hotseat that will forever be hard to fill.

Ranieri set the bar so high he scuppered himself.

The exit makes sense but is as unpalatable a decision as you can remember.

Welcome to the modern game.

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