Ranieri dumped in desperate move as it all falls apart for Leicester

How does this happen? How can a manager who produced a world-famous, 5,000-1 fairytale Premier League title win for his club be unceremoniously sacked just nine months later?

For Claudio Ranieri, this is his grim reality as the board of Leicester City called an end to the Italian's time at the Foxes with a club statement.

In May last year, Ranieri was close to the most popular man on the planet. Everyone's favourite unofficial grandfather, whose catchphrases like "dilly-ding, dilly dong!" had captivated fans and pundits alike, Ranieri was standing in Leicester's home ground on a stage with singer Andrea Bocelli celebrating the title.

Bocelli was belting out Nessun Dorma, singing "vincero" (I will win) and "gloria te" (glory to you), taking off his jacket mid-song to reveal a team shirt with his name on the back.

Foxes fans teared up in the stands, hardly able to believe a season that would have been dismissed in a Hollywood movie script as too unbelievable.

The footage went global, as the whole world had gone Leicester-crazy.

Aside from the glory of the win, the Foxes received a 100 million pound-plus ($162.8 million) payday, entry into the Champions League and people were talking about Leicester joining the Big Six (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs) as a powerhouse in the Premier League.

The dream turns to ashes for Leicester

It all started to go wrong in the off-season, as Leicester tried to hang on to the three main players in its squad.

Striker Jamie Vardy resisted an offer from Arsenal, winger Riyad Mahrez stayed loyal to the club. But the engine behind the club's success, central midfielder N'Golo Kante, moved to Chelsea and arguably took the title with him.

Without his incredible stamina, covering and ball-winning ability, Leicester was lost. A quick look at the stats show the dramatic dive in tackles won as the team's ferocious defence went out the door and the results went south with them.

Four losses in the first eight games, including thumpings by Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, were a sign of things to come.

Things really took a dive after New Year, however. The defenders that had played out of their skins the year before looked slow and lumbering and out of touch.

Mahrez's play-making was missing, Vardy was almost invisible up front, and the entire team seemed to lack confidence as their title defence was long gone.

Leicester's rise and fall

  • 2012-13 - Championship (6th)
  • 2013-14 - Championship (winners, promoted)
  • 2014-15 - Premier League (14th, 41 points)
  • 2015-16* - Premier League (champions, 81 points)
  • 2016-17 - Premier League (17th, 21 points after 25 games)

* Claudio Ranieri became Leicester manager on July 13, 2015

The Foxes failed to score a single goal in the Premier League in 2017, as the club slumped to 17th, one spot above the relegation zone.

Amid accusations that his tactics were not working any more, Ranieri stuck by his title-winning players, until finally making changes after a defeat to lowly Swansea.

The one bright spot was the Champions League, where Leicester had won its group to qualify for the round of 16 against Sevilla.

The first leg in Spain saw the visitors go 2-0 down, before a late away goal from Jamie Vardy gave the Foxes renewed hope of advancing to the quarter-finals.

Thousands of travelling Leicester fans reportedly remained singing loudly in the stadium after the game.

Could this be the moment to turn around the season? Sadly, it all came too late for Ranieri, who was told the bad news on his return from Seville.

No place to hide for managers

It is true that no club since Manchester City in the 1930s has won English football's top-flight only to be relegated the following season.

In previous eras, it would be almost unthinkable for clubs to dismiss a manager the year after securing the ultimate in league glory.

A quick look at more recent history, however, tells a different story.

Another Italian, Roberto Mancini, won the Premier League title managing Manchester City in 2012. By May the following year he was gone, with Chilean Manuel Pellegrini taking over.

The 2013 title went to Manchester United, with legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson making an emotional farewell at season's end, retiring after 27 years in charge.

In 2014, Pellegrini's City side took the Premier League title with an injury-time winner on the final day of the season.

City finished eight points back of champions Chelsea in 2015, but Pellegrini was given a one-year extension on his contract to the end of 2016.

However by February 2016, he was already yesterday's man, with City announcing he would leave at the end of his contract, to be replaced by Pep Guardiola.

Chelsea's title win was a big win for Jose Mourinho, but the shine started coming off the victory almost as soon as it happened.

He signed a four-year contract in August 2015, but the Blues won just 11 points out of a possible 36 to start the new season. Mourinho was embroiled in controversy when he demoted club doctor Eva Carneiro for coming onto the field to tend to an injured player late in a match against Swansea, which left Chelsea with only nine men.

By December, the Portuguese star manager was gone, sacked by the club. He turned up once more, however, as the new manager at Old Trafford for the 2016/17 season after the departure of Louis van Gaal.

The bottom line is that Leicester's ownership has proven definitively that there is no loyalty in football.

Ranieri's success at the club should have guaranteed him an exit on his own terms, at the very least. But today's events show that counts for very little these days, and the only key to survival is wins on the table.

 

Author: 
www.abc.net.au