“Disgusting,” former England and Leicester player Gary Lineker said of the decision taken barely two weeks after the owners had given the Italian boss “unwavering support” despite the team’s troubles.
Amid reports of a breakdown in the relationship between Ranieri and senior Leicester players, the British press took a severe line against the owners who announced the bombshell sacking late Wednesday.
“Leicester’s owners were snakes claiming to support Ranieri,” said a Daily Mail tabloid commentary.
“Ranieri reign ends in cruel, brutal fashion,” said the Guardian.
The Sun tabloid said that Ranier’s relationship with key striker Jamie Vardy and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had broken down. But its commentary said the “flops” who cost Ranieri his job should lose their Premier League title medals.
The sacking stunned all of English football after Leicester’s extraordinary exploit in winning the Premier League title by 10 points last season.
“I shed a tear last night – I shed a tear for Claudio, I shed a tear for football and I shed a tear for my club,” former Leicester stalwart Lineker, now a television commentator, said on BBC radio.
“It is inexplicable to me, it’s inexplicable to a lot of football fans who love the game and I suppose you can explain it in terms of a panic decision and for me a wrong decision and it is very sad,” he added.
The 65-year-old Italian’s position has come under intense scrutiny this season during a slump that has left the Foxes just a point above the relegation zone.
“Claudio, appointed City manager in July 2015, led the Foxes to the greatest triumph in the club’s 133-year history last season, as we were crowned champions of England for the first time. His status as the most successful Leicester City manager of all time is without question,” said a club statement announcing the board’s decision.
“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,” the statement added.
Leicester vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said ditching Ranieri had been the hardest decision the owners had made but one they had to take when, with 13 games left to play, there was still a chance of Premier League survival.
Assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and Mike Stowell will take caretaker charge ahead of Monday’s match against Liverpool.
Another Italian Roberto Mancini is among names mentioned as a possible successor, along with Guus Hiddink, who helped arrest Chelsea’s decline last season, and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.
The Times said that some players want Nigel Pearson, who was sacked by Leicester’s owners in 2015 to make way for Ranieri, to return.