Hiddink and Mancini in frame as Foxes boss pays for poor run
Claudio Ranieri was sacked as Leicester City manager last night, nine months after guiding the club to the first top-flight trophy in their 133-year history.
Ranieri returned to East Midlands Airport from Sevilla in the afternoon to be given the news by Leicester's director of football Jon Rudkin in a ruthless move which has stunned football as much as their remarkable title win.
The 65-year-old has struggled throughout a feeble title defence, bewildering players with tactics and team selection and allegedly marginalising backroom staff, but Leicester's Thai owners are still facing severe criticism after opting to dismiss the Italian. Earlier this month they had released a statement declaring unwavering support for Ranieri but the 2-0 defeat against Swansea is thought to have seriously alarmed the club hierarchy and forced a swift rethink.
With Leicester only a point off the Premier League's relegation zone, the club have acted in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation to the Championship. The decision comes less than 24 hours after a creditable 2-1 defeat by Sevilla in the Champions League round of 16 first leg.
Guus Hiddink, the former Chelsea manager, and Roberto Mancini are understood to be under consideration to replace Ranieri, while there is also thought to be support for Craig Shakespeare, the assistant manager, to take charge for the remainder of the season.
A surprise move for former manager Nigel Pearson, sacked by Leicester in June 2015, is thought to be a non-starter.
Gary Lineker, the former Leicester striker, tweeted after the decision: “After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad.”
However, Ranieri’s methods have been confusing and angering the players. They included the bizarre instruction to train on the morning of the FA Cup tie at Derby, while he has also changed tactics without warning less than two hours before kick-off.
His treatment of Demarai Gray has also been a constant source of irritation, with Ranieri dropping the talented winger in favour of £15m signing Ahmed Musa, who has horribly under-achieved since joining from CSKA Moscow.
Leicester’s 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.”
The club’s recruitment has also been a disaster and signings such as Musa, Islam Slimani, Papy Mendy, Ron-Robert Zieler and Luis Hernandez (the latter has already left) have all struggled despite a spend of over £60m. Ranieri is understood to have harboured serious concern over Leicester’s failure to recruit a top centre-half, with the club reluctant to pay £25million for Burnley’s Michael Keane in the summer.
Without strengthening that position, Leicester have had no option but to stick with captain Wes Morgan and Robert Huth (combined age 65).
Now Leicester must mount a revival after only five league wins all season, with a home game against Liverpool on Monday night. Last season’s champions then face Hull City a week on Saturday in a potentially crucial encounter at the King Power Stadium.
For Ranieri, it is a case of Dilly Ding, Dilly Gone. (© Daily Telegraph, London)