Late yesterday, Leicester City announced that they had cut ties with Claudio Ranieri, nine months after he led the Foxes to a shock coronation as Premier League champions. Whether this was the right decision for the club remains a subject for debate. Regardless, the club pulled the trigger and now face the reality of searching for a suitable replacement even as they inch closer to relegation.
Managers come and go in English football, and the game of touchline musical chairs is, for good or ill, a compelling sideshow in a Premier League. Even so, the sacking of Ranieri has provoked a public and widespread grieving process.
First, caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare used his press conference ahead of the start of Matchweek 26 in the Premier League to dispel rumors that a player revolt had contributed to the decision to fire Ranieri.
”There was a lot of frustration because of the results, but he had not lost the dressing room. A lot of the talk of unrest has been speculation. I’ve not had one problem with the players. I always feel sorry when people lose their jobs. I’m not aware of the club having spoken to any candidates. My relationship with Claudio has been fine all along. I spoke to him last night and he thanked me for my support throughout. It was not brief and we exchanged views. A lot of what we said will stay private.”
BBC pundit Gary Lineker described the decision as “gobsmacking” and accused Leicester of disloyalty and ingratitude. José Mourinho blamed the squad for costing Ranieri his job. Jürgen Klopp compared the decision to fire Ranieri with the passage of the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump. So, you know, pretty muted reactions all around.
But the most emotional response probably came from Ranieri himself. He released a statement earlier today expressing sorrow over the decision and thanking the club and the fans, saying “no one can ever take away what we together have achieved.”
I’m not crying you’re crying.
Leicester will attempt to pick up the pieces on Monday when they host Liverpool. They have 12 games in which to secure a place in the Premier League next season. At least some of those games will happen without a permanent replacement for Ranieri. To call the situation the defending champions are in “dire” would be a towering understatement.