Claudio Ranieri has admitted his “dream died” when he was sacked by Leicester City, with the Italian paying tribute to the supporters for the “amazing adventure” which led to the club being crowned Premier League champions last season for the first time.
As numerous figures, from the Manchester United manager, José Mourinho, to England rugby union’s head coach, Eddie Jones, expressed their solidarity following his departure on Thursday, Ranieri released a statement via the League Managers Association in which he expressed his sadness at leaving the role he had occupied since replacing Nigel Pearson in July 2015.
“Yesterday my dream died,” he said. “After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed 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.”
As the Italian cleared out his office at the club’s training ground on Friday, it was left to the caretaker manager, Craig Shakespeare, to deny reports that a mutiny had led to the downfall of the man who only nine months ago oversaw one of the most improbable sporting triumphs in history.
Admitting he felt like “a pantomime villain” as he addressed the media, the 53-year-old, who served as Pearson’s assistant before retaining his role under Ranieri, dismissed speculation that he had fallen out with the manager and was adamant that senior members of the squad which won the Premier League title last season had not urged the club’s owners to make a change only two weeks after the club had offered Ranieri their “unwavering support”. “I can understand why the public would perceive that but hopefully I have allayed those fears that it was pure speculation. There is no foundation to it,” Shakespeare said.
“My relationship always has and always will be fine with Claudio,” said Shakespeare. “ I’ve never had a problem with him and he’s never had a problem with me. I spoke to him on the phone after the news broke and he actually thanked me for my support.”
Shakespeare, who also served as an assistant to Sam Allardyce during his ill-fated spell with England, will take charge of the team for Monday night’s crucial meeting with Liverpool at the King Power Stadium as Leicester attempt to arrest a slide in which they have picked up only one point from six league matches. Roberto Mancini, the former Manchester City manager and an early favourite to replace his compatriot, reportedly distanced himself from the job day, with Shakespeare hinting he could be interested in taking the role permanently.
“My focus is really just to prepare the team for Monday night,” he said. “Do I think I can do the job? Yes. Does it faze me? No. But again, the focus is just on Monday night. I don’t want to appear too bullish. I want to send the right messages to the players. We will have a right go at trying to turn this around.”
Pearson has been linked with a possible return to the King Power but that appears unlikely owing to the circumstances of his departure in June 2015, when the club declared that “the working relationship between Nigel and the board is no longer viable”. Meanwhile Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club chairman, took to Instagram to plead with supporters for their understanding of his decision to sack Ranieri and admitted that Leicester were in “crisis”.
“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,” he wrote.
“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. I really appreciate for the fans who still (have) love and understanding. And also thanks for the ones who keep complaining to me and the management team. I do understand you too .
“Please respect my decision. I will never let the club down. Seven years of my hard work here, I make the club better and better in every way. No need to talk about money. As you can see. All money goes back to invest in everywhere for the club.”
Jürgen Klopp ranked news of Ranieri’s dismissal alongside Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the most mystifying decisions of recent times, while Jones admitted he was not surprised to see the Italian leave his post. Mourinho, who attended his press conference on Friday with a training top bearing the initials ‘CR’ in “homage” to Ranieri, blamed his departure on the players.
“I thought last season, when I was sacked as a champion, it was a giant, negative thing. Now I recognise it’s peanuts compared to Claudio,” he said.
The Guardian Sport