ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Dilly ding, dilly gone – the bell tolls on Ranieri’s Leicester reign
For the second time in the last seven months, Leicester City have shocked the sporting world. After the highs of winning their first ever top flight title in May, defying odds of 5000/1, it was announced late on Thursday that the club would be ‘parting company’ with manager Claudio Ranieri. The move was taken with the team currently 17th in the Premier League, having lost their last five league matches, with the owners hoping that a change of manager will rejuvenate a squad, clearly devoid of the confidence and team spirit that led them to arguably the most surprising sporting triumph of all time.
It was only two weeks ago that the Italian received a vote of confidence from the board, and performances in Europe have been far better than those domestically, with the team currently in the last 16 of the Champions League, and still in with a chance of making the quarter finals. This isn’t the first time Ranieri has been harshly sacked in England, with his spell at Chelsea ending after finishing second in the league. From a purely business point of view, sacking Ranieri seems a sensible decision, with a Premier League place being worth around £70m in TV money. If it wasn’t for last season, no one would have any issues with the decision, as Leicester have been woeful during 2017, with their first leg defeat against Sevilla being arguably their best performance in months.
But last season did happen. Ranieri took a team that had been dogged by controversy over the summer of 2015, one that many thought would be relegation fodder after a last gasp escape the previous season. The squad appeared to be fairly average on paper, but they proved to be an effective unit all season, with N’Golo Kante shielding the defence superbly, allowing Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to use their pace to devastating effect on the counter attack. Kante has arguably been the most important player in English football over the past 18 months, with Leicester looking hopeless without the French international, and Chelsea appearing to be a transformed side since his arrival. Two league titles in two seasons looks a certainty for Kante.
The rest of the players have failed to step up in his absence however. Mahrez and Vardy have been nullified this season, with other teams forcing Leicester to spend more time on the ball, something they don’t seem comfortable with. Without Kante, Huth and Morgan look like they belong in the Championship, not the Champions League. No-one looked like they wanted to take any responsibility for what was happening. The success went to the heads of many players, with massive wage increases and new cars as a bonus leading to complacency throughout the squad. Ranieri looked unable to cope with the egos that seemed to be growing throughout the changing room, reverting to his old ‘Tinkerman’ reputation in an attempt to turn the tide.
Roberto Mancini is the early favourite to take over at the King Power, with the former Premier League winner gaining his first taste of English football at the club in 2001. Nigel Pearson, who got the club promoted from League One to the Premier League, and Alan Pardew are other names in the frame for the job at the moment. No matter what the new boss does, it is unlikely that they will have the impact on the team, and possibly world sport, as Ranieri, who has fallen victim to the fact that it is a lot easier to sack one manager, than to sack eleven players.
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