Last week, Leicester City shocked the footballing world by announcing the end of Claudio Ranieri’s reign at the club. The Italian manager had become a legend, not just at the King Power Stadium, but around the world for his role in leading Leicester City to a miraculous Premier League title. Before his arrival, the Foxes had narrowly escaped relegation and going into the 2015/16 season, they had to be considered favorites to go down to the Championship.
It was safe to say that Ranieri inherited somewhat of a sinking ship when he took over in July 2015. In that summer’s transfer window, the Italian manager brought in the likes of N’Golo Kanté, Shinji Okazaki, Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth. I think that we can all agree, that those players have done more than live up to their price tags.
On top of the players that he brought in, Ranieri managed to bring out the most in the players he inherited. No examples could be better than Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. During the 2014/15 campaign, they combined for nine goals. Under Ranieri, we saw what they were capable of. Mahrez became one of the most exciting players to watch on the flanks with his dazzling skills and creativity. Vardy held a season-long party that saw him find the back of the net 24 times.
The rise of these once forgotten players during the title-winning season makes Ranieri’s sacking even more heartbreaking. You would think that they would be grateful to the Italian for resurrecting their careers, and for making them household names around the globe. Instead, we saw them seemingly give up on the pitch. It was reported that a number of players, including Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel, even talked to the chairman after the club’s 2-1 loss to Sevilla in the Champions League talking about their dissatisfaction with Ranieri at the helm.
Apparently, that loss IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, was the last straw for Leicester’s board and Ranieri was sacked. This decision drew the ire of pundits, managers and players from around the globe. Leicester legend Gary Lineker tweeted that the decision was, “inexplicable, unforgivable, and gut-wrenchingly sad.” Manchester United manager José Mourinho, who faced a somewhat similar situation at Chelsea last season, told reporters, “This season started with the typical selfishness of others…people forgetting who helped them reach a certain level.”
Some will argue that Leicester made the right decision because now they’re a club who are trying to compete and win trophies. Granted, Leicester’s form in the league this season has been less than stellar (they currently sit 15th, two points above the drop zone), but they’re still very much alive in the Champions League. All they needed was a 1-0 win, at home, to advance past Sevilla into the quarter-finals of the biggest club competition on the planet. If you would’ve told me that two years ago, I may have died from laughter.
I’m going to side with Mourinho, Lineker and countless others on this issue. I feel that the board made the wrong decision by firing this absolute legend. They felt the pressure of one bad season, and thought that the easiest thing to do was get rid of the man that made this type of season a “disappointment.” I blame the players because I think they gave up on the man that made them into the stars they are today. The fact that they battered Liverpool 3-1 the match after Ranieri’s firing gives evidence to that.
With all that being said, that’s just the culture of the game today. You look at instances like Mourinho getting sacked last season, Manuel Pellegrini being shown the door after winning the title in 2016, and you realize that today’s game is one of instant gratification and selfishness.
I hope that this trend dies quickly, but only time will tell.