'Yesterday my dream died' - Claudio Ranieri breaks silence with emotional response to his Leicester sacking
Claudio Ranieri has said his "dream died" when Leicester sacked him.
The Italian led the Foxes to a shock Premier League title last season but was axed on Thursday with the club a point above the relegation zone.
Leicester have lost their last five league games and are yet to score in the top flight in 2017 ahead of Monday's visit of Liverpool.
"Yesterday my dream died," he said in a statement released to Press Association Sport.
"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. I wish to thank my wife Rosanna and all my family for their never ending support during my time at Leicester."
He also thanked his agents, Steve Kutner and Franco Granello, for "bringing me the opportunity to become a champion", and added his appreciation for backroom staff members Paolo Benetti and Andrea Azzalin, who departed with him.
"Mostly I have to thank Leicester City Football Club. The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever," Ranieri said.
"Thank you to all the journalists and the media who came with us and enjoyed reporting on the greatest story in football.
"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."
The last weeks of Ranieri's reign were dogged by rumours of dressing room unrest but caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare has rejected he lost the players.
Reports had suggested some players had spoken to the club's Thai owners to voice their concerns over Ranieri's reign.
"I'm not aware of any senior players going to the owners so that's news to me," he said. "What I would say, there was a lot of frustration because of results but he hadn't lost the dressing room," said Shakespeare.
"Players have a voice, we have a good group of players who are tactically aware. You listen to the players but it's the manager who makes the final call.
"From a football point of view I have to tell you that the players are very professional. They are very hurt and very frustrated.
"I've not had one problem with them on the training field. They are very diligent and professional. They will be very disappointed, like everybody else, that the manager has lost his job."
The Foxes flew back on Thursday following the 2-1 Champions League defeat at Sevilla, and Ranieri was told he was fired by director of football Jon Rudkin when they landed.
Shakespeare admitted no one, including Ranieri, saw the decision coming and also insisted his relationship with the former manager had not soured.
He said: "We flew back from Seville, I arrived home and had a call, just before the news broke, from the director of football Jon to tell me what was happening, asking me to take care of the next game.
"A lot of it has been speculation, with no foundation. My relationship with Claudio has been perfectly fine all the way along. I have never had a problem with him, he has never had a problem with me. I spoke to him after the news broke and he thanked me for my support."
Leicester have not won in the league since Boxing Day and, when asked if he wanted the job to save the champions from relegation, Shakespeare was bullish in his reply.
He said: "Do I think I can do the job? Yes. Does it phase me? No. But again, the focus is just on Monday night."
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini, one of the early names linked to the job, has expressed his sympathy for his compatriot following his sacking.
The former Manchester City manager, who had a short spell as a player with the Foxes in 2001 and is available after leaving Inter Milan last year, is the favourite to replace Ranieri on a permanent basis.
Mancini said on Twitter: "I am sorry for my friend #Ranieri. He will remain in the history of @LCFC, in the heart of #Leicester fans and all football lovers."
Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has also urged angry fans to respect the decision to dispense with Ranieri and hinted at serious problems behind the scenes at the club.
In his statement on Instagram in broken English, which was published on the BBC Leicester Sport Twitter account, Srivaddhanaprabha said: "Thank you to our followers who understand and still support me in any circumstances. What you have seen is only some sides of the club which we can show to the public.
"We have done our best as a management. We do not have only one problem to solve, but there are millions thing to do to make our club survive.
"I would like to take this crisis situation to thank you all fans, and at the same time I do understand you.
"Please respect my decision. I will never let the club down."
A possible contender to replace Ranieri is former Birmingham manager Gary Rowett, who lost his job at St Andrew's in December.
Rowett told BBC 5 Live: "I'm sat at home waiting for the right opportunity to come along and of course Leicester would be an amazing one, but I think it's still raw for everybody.
"I played there for two years. I've had good experiences at Leicester and it's an excellent club."