I was stabbed in back, insists shocked Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri broke his silence last night on his sacking at Leicester City by suggesting he had been betrayed by "someone behind me" and denying that the players ousted him at the King Power Stadium.
Ranieri's dismissal as Leicester manager in February, 298 days after he led the club to the Premier League title, attracted widespread outrage. The Italian refused to blame the players and instead pointed the finger elsewhere, adding that he may confront the perceived back-stabber in person.
"I listened to a lot of stories about this," Ranieri told Sky Sports. "Maybe it could be somebody behind me, but also the little problem I had the year before and we won the title. Maybe these people, this year, when we lose they push a little more. That's it. I don't want to tell. I am a serious man, a loyal man. What I have to say, I say face to face."
Sacked the day after Leicester's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie, it was said that a meeting between senior players and the club's owners sealed Ranieri's fate.
But while Ranieri blames some of the lavish contracts dished out to some members of the squad last summer as a reason behind the drop in standards, he waved away suggestions that the players were behind his dismissal.
Speaking before Leicester's Champions League quarter-final, first leg away to Atletico Madrid tomorrow night,Ranieri said: "No, I can't believe it. I cannot believe that my players killed me. No, no, no. The players maybe don't give their maximum because there are other problems.
"Other problems could be that when they were here before they earned a little less, and after that they earned double or triple.
"Maybe when you were safe in the last match and restart the season, you are so concentrated to be solid and strong. Then when you come back in pre-season when you have won the title, you go around the world. You go to America to play against big teams for the first time. The situation is totally different."
Leicester won their first six games after Ranieri's sacking under Craig Shakespeare, the Italian's assistant who has been placed in charge until the end of the season.
But Ranieri said he was shocked to lose his job, after feeling that the Sevilla game was a watershed. Leicester won the return leg 2-0 under Shakespeare.
"The turning point was the Sevilla match," he said. "In the second half everyone was together again, fighting, Jamie (Vardy) scoring.
"We made very good matches before that but not with the same consistency of the year before, that was the problem. To go to Sevilla… and (only) lose 2-1, so when I was sacked it was a shock." (© Daily Telegraph, London)