Leicester’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri nine months after winning the Premier League made former Foxes striker Gary Lineker “shed a tear”.
Ranieri guided Leicester to the title despite them being rated 5,000-1 shots at the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
The Foxes are 17th this season and lost to League One Millwall in the FA Cup.
“It is very sad,” said Match of the Day presenter Lineker. “It is inexplicable to me. It’s inexplicable to a lot football fans who love the game.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, the 56-year-old added: “I suppose you can explain it in terms of a panic decision and for me a wrong decision.
“I shed a tear last night for Claudio, for football and for my club.”
‘A sign of modern football’
After news of the 65-year-old Italian’s dismissal broke on Thursday, former England captain Lineker, who played for his hometown club for seven seasons, said the “game’s gone” in a post on social media.
“It’s a sign of modern football, what happened last season was truly extraordinary, ” he added on Friday. “The lack of gratitude from the owners of the club and who knows who else involved in such a decision beggars belief.
“That season will remain with us forever, it was truly special and a lot of that was down to the management.
“The same guy cannot be considered incapable of doing the job a few months months later after achieving what, for me, was the biggest miracle in sport.”
- Analysis: Were Leicester right to sack Ranieri?
- Reaction to Ranieri’s dismissal as Leicester manager
- ‘One of the worst things the owners have done’
Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, speaking on BT Sport, said: “I wasn’t that surprised, but am disappointed. He has done an amazing job.
“When teams are down there now, with what’s at stake, owners do make those changes and panic. I’m sad to see it. He can walk away and hold his head high.”
Ex-England striker and Match of the Day pundit Ian Wright said the Leicester players may feel they are responsible for Ranieri’s dismissal.
“Unfortunate news,” Wright said on social media. “I wonder how I’d feel if I was a Leicester player right now? Could I have done more? At least Claudio left them as champions.”
Former Wales striker and Match of the Day pundit John Hartson said: “Very hasty and very harsh. The owner/board are obviously having a major panic and feel a change in a relegation battle is needed.
“Will the sacking of Claudio Ranieri seem so mad if Leicester appoint a manager who keeps them in the Premier League?”
Former England striker Michael Owen said the sacking was a “total and utter disgrace”. He added: “I’ve lost a lot of love for the beautiful game today. The players and fans of Leicester have been massively let down.”
|Leicester City: Premier League 2015-16 v 2016-17|
|Pts per game||Shots per game||Clean sheets||Defeats|
|2015-16||2.1 (81 from 38)||13.8 (7th in league)||15||3 (from 38)|
|2016-17||0.8 (21 from 25)||10.8 (14th)||5||14 (from 25)|
Phil McNulty, BBC chief football writer:
It is almost the thought that dare not speak its name amid the wave of shock, outrage and disgust at Leicester’s decision to ruthlessly dismiss the hugely popular 65-year-old, who won the hearts of all supporters with his good humour, class and dignity as he led the Foxes to the title.
But is there actually method in what many see as the madness of the club’s Thai owners?
Leicester’s fall has been more dramatic than anything they could have foreseen in their worst nightmares. A win for any of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Hull City this weekend would put the Foxes in the relegation places. Wins for all three and they would be bottom by the time they face Liverpool on what will now be a highly charged occasion at the King Power on Monday.
After 26 games last year they were top on 53 points, two ahead of Spurs. This season they are 17th after 25 games, with only 21 points. Last season they had lost only three games compared with 14 in this campaign, and conceded only 29 goals compared with 43 this term. Indeed, they only conceded 36 in the entire 2015-16 season.
The difference is stark and, very clearly in the opinion of Leicester’s owners, dangerous.
Pat Murphy, BBC Radio 5 live
I understand some influential players in the dressing room, who were part of the Nigel Pearson squad a couple of years ago, were making graphic contrasts with team spirit and the organisational qualities of Pearson compared with Ranieri this season.
The club never really lost faith in Pearson this time two years ago. Despite the fact they were in the parlous position, the general feeling was that he had the dressing room and knew where he was going. He left in the summer of 2015 for different reasons – personal reasons associated with his son, who was on the staff.
Quite clearly, Ranieri had lost a lot of key allies in that Leicester dressing room with long memories.
What did Leicester say?
On 7 February, Leicester issued a statement saying Ranieri had their “unwavering support”. Sixteen days later they sacked the 65-year-old Italian, who had signed a new four-year deal in the summer.
His departure came a day after the Foxes won praise for their performance despite losing 2-1 in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Sevilla.
“Ranieri was told he was sacked on Thursday afternoon in Leicester once the team returned from Spain, but the suggestion is the owners decided before that defeat by Sevilla,” said BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
“The decision was taken very reluctantly but the club’s owners are desperate to avoid relegation and its consequences.”
Foxes 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.
“Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skilful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City.”
Srivaddhanaprabha added: “His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale. We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve.
“It was never our expectation that the extraordinary feats of last season should be replicated this season. Indeed, survival in the Premier League was our first and only target at the start of the campaign.
“But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games.”
A news conference with Leicester assistant manager Craig Shakespeare will take place at 13:00 GMT on Friday.
‘Dilly ding dilly game’s gone’ – social media reaction
A year (and nine days) in the life of Ranieri
14 February 2016: Leicester lose 2-1 at Arsenal, their final defeat of the 2015-16 season before a 12-game unbeaten run.
2 May 2016: The Foxes are crowned champions of England for the first time in their history as Tottenham draw at Chelsea.
16 July 2016: Midfielder N’Golo Kante leaves to sign a five-year deal with Chelsea.
13 August 2016: Leicester lose their first game of the 2016-17 season – a 2-1 defeat at Hull City.
15 October 2016: The Foxes are hammered 3-0 by table-topping Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
22 November 2016: Leicester secure top spot in their Champions League group with one game to spare.
18 December 2016: Ranieri is named Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
7 February 2017: After a run of two wins in 15 league games, Leicester give Ranieri their “unwavering support”.
22 February 2017: The Foxes lose 2-1 to Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
23 February 2017: Ranieri is sacked.