Un­happy end­ing to fairy­tale

English cham­pion Le­ices­ter fires Ranieri as rel­e­ga­tion looms

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

Mas­ter­mind­ing one of the great­est up­sets in sport­ing his­tory wasn’t enough for Clau­dio Ranieri to keep his job at Le­ices­ter.

Ranieri was fired by Le­ices­ter on Thurs­day, nine months af­ter the 65-year-old Ital­ian man­ager guided the club to the English Premier League ti­tle at pre­sea­son odds of 5,000-1.

Le­ices­ter’s Thai own­ers took the dras­tic mea­sure with soc­cer’s ul­ti­mate fairy­tale threat­en­ing to have an un­happy end­ing. In a dread­ful ti­tle de­fence, the team is one point and one place above the rel­e­ga­tion zone and in se­ri­ous dan­ger of los­ing its sta­tus in the world’s most lu­cra­tive league.

“We are duty-bound to put the club’s long-term in­ter­ests above all sense of per­sonal sen­ti­ment,” Le­ices­ter vice chair­man Aiyawatt Sri­vad­dhanaprabha said, “no mat­ter how strong that might be.”

On cur­rent form, Le­ices­ter is head­ing for rel­e­ga­tion with 13 games left. It hasn’t scored a goal in six league games in 2017 and has won one of its last 10 games in the league.

The team was elim­i­nated from the FA Cup last week­end by third-tier team Mill­wall, which won 1-0 de­spite play­ing most of the sec­ond half with 10 play­ers.

“His sta­tus as the most suc­cess­ful Le­ices­ter City man­ager of all time is with­out ques­tion,” a long club state­ment said of Ranieri.

“How­ever, do­mes­tic re­sults in the cur­rent cam­paign have placed the club’s Premier League sta­tus un­der threat, and the board re­luc­tantly feels that a change of lead­er­ship, while ad­mit­tedly painful, is nec­es­sary in the club’s great­est in­ter­est.”

Le­ices­ter, with a team of jour­ney­men, cast-offs and pre­vi­ously un­her­alded play­ers, won the Premier League by 10 points, a feat widely viewed as one of the great­est in all sports.

Ranieri was last month voted as FIFA coach of the year, and the Le­ices­ter story cap­tured the hearts of the sport­ing world and beyond.

How­ever, the val­ues be­hind Le­ices­ter’s sur­prise suc­cess — hard work, at­ti­tude, team spirit — have dis­ap­peared as Le­ices­ter slipped closer to the bot­tom three in the Premier League and its star play­ers, in­clud­ing Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, failed to re­dis­cover the form of last sea­son.

Ranieri has come un­der heavy pres­sure in re­cent weeks and re­port­edly fell out with some of his play­ers. The club qual­i­fied for the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League with a game to spare in the group stage — it lost 2-1 to Sevilla in the first leg on Wed­nes­day — but even the po­ten­tial prospect of reach­ing the quar­ter­fi­nals of Europe’s most il­lus­tri­ous com­pe­ti­tion hasn’t saved Ranieri.

“Af­ter all that Clau­dio Ranieri has done for Le­ices­ter City, to sack him now is in­ex­pli­ca­ble, un­for­giv­able and gut-wrench­ingly sad,” former Le­ices­ter and Eng­land player Gary Lineker tweeted.

Le­ices­ter could be in the Premier League’s rel­e­ga­tion zone by the time the team plays its next match, at home to Liver­pool on Mon­day. As­sis­tant man­ager Craig Shake­speare and first-team coach Mike Stow­ell have been placed in tem­po­rary charge of the side.


An Oc­to­ber 2016 file photo of Le­ices­ter City man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri watch­ing play dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League Group G soc­cer match be­tween Le­ices­ter City and FC Copen­hagen at the King Power sta­dium in Le­ices­ter, Eng­land.

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