Friday 28 April 2017

Rival bosses vent fury at sacking as Ranieri admits 'My dream died'

A mural of Claudio Ranieri in Leicester city centre. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
A mural of Claudio Ranieri in Leicester city centre. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

John Percy and Jason Burt

Claudio Ranieri revealed "yesterday my dream died" as Premier League managers united to condemn Leicester's surprise sacking of last season's title winner.

Ranieri broke his silence on the dismissal which has stunned the football world by admitting his sadness in a heartfelt statement after it emerged that the reigning FIFA World Coach of the Year was sacked in a hotel side-room at East Midlands Airport.

There is "a wave of disbelief and anger" among the managerial community, according to LMA chief executive Richard Bevan.

Some of the potential replacements are wary of accepting the job because of the circumstances surrounding Ranieri's departure.

Caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare believes he has already been cast as the "pantomime villain" as he looks to lift the club ahead of Monday's visit of Liverpool.

Read more: A disgraceful way to treat a miracle-worker

Roberto Mancini has become the first potential contender to distance himself from the post, with the defending champions drawing up a shortlist as they begin the search for Ranieri's successor.

Leicester's Thai owners are under heavy scrutiny after the dismissal of the Italian, just nine months after he guided the club to the title, and Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte have all come out in strong support of the 65-year-old.

Mourinho wore an embroidered shirt with the initials 'CR' yesterday as he launched a withering attack on Leicester's players, effectively accusing them of getting Ranieri the sack.

Shocked

It can be revealed that a "shocked" Ranieri was informed of the news at East Midlands Airport's Radisson Blu Hotel on Thursday afternoon as the staff and players waited for their luggage following a difficult landing after flying from Seville.

Ranieri, who has left with a pay-off of around £3m, with more than two years left on his contract, returned to Leicester's training ground yesterday to collect his belongings.

Read more: Long way to go

Hours later he issued his first public statement on his departure, claiming he had hoped only to stay with Leicester, a club that he would "love, for always".

He said: "Yesterday, my dream died. After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always. Sadly this was not to be.

"My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club - all the players, the staff, everybody who was there and was part of what we achieved.

"But mostly to the supporters. You took me into your hearts from day one and loved me. I love you, too. No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

"It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget. It's been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you."

Ranieri has told close friends that he was stunned by the decision but suspects "one or two" senior players had turned against him following a difficult season in which Leicester have won only five league games.

Mancini has effectively ruled himself out of the post, while Alan Pardew is understood to feel uncomfortable about the prospect of replacing such a popular manager.

With Ranieri now out of work, Craig Shakespeare will take caretaker charge for the game against Liverpool on Monday and is thought to be a serious contender for the post until the end of the season.

Recruited by Nigel Pearson, Shakespeare has an excellent reputation and a close affinity with the Leicester dressing room. At a press conference yesterday, he refused to rule out taking the job, while admitting his difficulty in temporarily succeeding Ranieri.

"I feel a bit like the pantomime villain sitting here," he said. "It' very sad and we all know in football that these things can happen.

"We'll have to make sure we remember him, he'll get the utmost respect from everybody associated with the football club in what he's achieved.

"We know that people lose their jobs because of results and ultimately the owners have made that decision. There's frustrations with everybody, coaching staff, players and I think there's lots of reasons why."

Mourinho led the widespread support for Ranieri with a typically forthright assessment.

Sacked by Chelsea last season after another alleged player revolt, he said: "I thought last season when I was sacked as a champion, I thought it was a giant negative thing. Now I realise it was peanuts compared with what happened to Claudio.

Selfishness

"Probably the season started with the typical selfishness of others, people thinking about new contracts, people thinking about leaving, people thinking about more money, people forgetting who helped them reach a certain level.

"Some principles are going away a little bit, so I am really sorry about it. I think everyone in football (is) united because the decision is something very difficult to accept."

In a statement that will play especially well to the sensitivities of the Merseyside public, Klopp's political leanings were thinly disguised as he considered the fate of the Italian.

"What can I say? Am I surprised that things like this can happen? No. It is not only football," said Klopp. "For me there have been a few strange decisions in '16/'17: Brexit, Trump, Ranieri. Do I have to understand it all the time - obviously not." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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