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Nisar Khan

President, head writer at TheSportMatrix

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The Demise of Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri was the mastermind behind one of sport's most unthinkable feats. Leicester City's Premier League triumph was more than a fairytale, it was a miracle, encapsulating the globe as the fearless Foxes refused to back down from the titans, flipping the script and changing the game as we know it.

But despite all the odds defied from that dauntless campaign, the thought of lightning striking twice was not even perceivable to the vast majority - they were right. An influx in both managerial and footballing talent in the league stacked the deck against the champions, sending them crashing back to Earth abruptly.

Image: Sky Sports
It was bad, but reality. Leicester had tasted glory unlike no other, which was a far-cry from what relegation-battling teams usually come face to face with. When they were dumped back into the predicament they faced in their first season, the manager's time was quickly brought to an end.

News broke out of nowhere, and there's no surprise that it was such a gigantic shock. Leicester City did underachieve, but the rumblings of pressure on Ranieri were hardly loud, with the hearts still beating and faith invested in the Italian. In the space of 9 months, Leicester turned a fairytale into a callous, cutthroat showing of no mercy - or loyalty.


A fortnight prior, the club declared their "wavering support" for the manager in a statement on their official website. They added that the teams success "has been based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges", and finished saying "The entire club is and will remain unified behind its manager and behind its players, collectively." How wrong that turned out to be just weeks on.

The owners U-turn probably wasn't spontaneous, as some reports would suggest. A player revolt and meeting with the board to try and end the tenure circulated around the media, but Jamie Vardy denied those reports with an Instagram post. We all saw how Leicester were struggling to adapt and embrace the fact that they were - at that point in time - an elite club with the silverware giving them that certification, and it appeared to all just spill over.


Leicester's higher powers were obviously thinking of matters well beyond the pitch, the business. The Foxes' stock rose to inconceivable heights last season, both literally and figuratively - their value on the markets soared, sweet for the long-time fans who saw shares cancelled back in 2002 amid a financial crisis. In terms of popularity and appeal, the world was captured by that truly incredible story, fans were flocking from across the world, globalising the club and generating business. But when the form began to dip, and there were less of those thrilling comebacks and disregarding of all convention, the energy in the King Power Stadium began to leak, and interest could have followed suit.

Image: Twitter

The ownership may have thought that they needed to play the villain for the greater good. However, the instant backlash to the decision shows something a little deeper: this was another occasion where business and long-term thinking were favoured over loyalty and passion. This may sound like a generic plot, but that's what it boiled down to, and the cases may follow in the future as the game transcends sport. TV deals, ticket and shirt sales, and the rest of it are now taking a bigger priority than ever. That hinges on results, something of which Ranieri wasn't getting, and that's why he got the boot.

On one side of the coin Leicester made a harsh but wise move to get rid of the manager, but equally on the other side, it can be deemed an absolute travesty. Just look at what he did, he took the team to a place no one had ever seen before. He never could have replicated that, it's optimistic and motivating to reach high and apply the mindset of a big club, but realism is always a necessity. By sacking the Italian they behaved like title contenders, not realising that as harsh as it may sound they were a flash in the pan.

History can be selective. You can only hope it is in this case too, and that the sacking of Claudio Ranieri is just a footnote for one of sport's greatest triumphs. This post-title collapse mustn't tarnish that miracle, or the legacy of the man who made it happen. Not every story has a happy ending - this is a prominent mantra for the tale of Leicester City.

Image: Newsweek
To speculate, something drastic must have happened for the owners to take such a sudden turn on their stance with Ranieri. That's probably why the rumours of the player revolt have been so widespread. Not too long after a crucial away goal in a slim defeat to Sevilla, he had his P45. It must have been pre-planned after the weekend, with the danger recognised of leading a manager-less club into European competition. If not the players, then what else?

There's not much place in the record books for the character, personality and infectious likability of someone, but if there was Ranieri would be highly regarded. It makes this sacking all the more devastating, with someone so emotionally invested being reduced to a frustrated figure, ultimately heartbroken when he was kicked to the curb. Again though this is real life, and there's no longer much place for all that sentiment,. It's cold-hearted reality.

Craig Shakespeare inherited the caretaker-manager role and all of a sudden the switch flicked. Leicester saw off Liverpool with a thumping performance before they brushed aside Hull City. That is a mechanism of hope in itself, showing that the resources are still there for survival. But what was Ranieri doing so wrong? How could a man who pulled off such a triumph be unable to tap into their potential once again?

Iamge: beIN Sports
Maybe he did lose the dressing room, but that shouldn't be the be all and end all. For others, yes, but for someone who has earned his stripes, all the leeway should be provided. He could have dug them out of that hole, because when backed up against a corner Leicester are a team with the ingredients to thrive. But none of that. Barely even an ultimatum, just one sudden adieu and the man who made them legends was gone. Ranieri will himself most likely accept that he can't take all the credit for that title win if he isn't willing to put his neck out on the line, and somewhat forgetting that Leicester are underdogs, and deviating away from that patented 4-42 seemed to be a sticking point. His apparent reluctance to deny suggestions didn't help either, but stubbornness surely couldn't have lead to such a rash decision.

What's also become apparent is that the signings Leicester made in the summer clearly weren't fit for champions. With the obviously high expectations that the owners had - sacking a relegation battling team for failing to challenge for a shock title once again - the signings coming in weren't fit of holding up the fort. Islam Slimani had high hopes but cooled off, while Ahmed Musa has really just been some (expensive) dead wood. If it was a resourcing issue then the higher powers need to take one long look in the mirror. N'Golo Kanté's absence has been felt this season - he's now close to winning the championship with Chelsea, and it was only in January where the Foxes acquired a replacement in Wilfred Ndidi - the jury's still out on that one.

Image: Euorsport
Reality rarely hits harder than it does for this. Leicester were in trouble, but that's where they are supposed to be. Last season was clearly not treated as an anomaly by the owners in this case, they felt it was a sudden break out to the top, and with all the money in the game that's not possible.

This decision showed the erosion of sentiment in football. Leicester City were a special case in that, compared to the big dogs with the cash to splash, towering over the rest of the opposition, they were minnows. But with a unique bond, a common cause and unity they pulled off what no-one saw coming. All it takes is that, though, to change things, now they behave like a corporate franchise where they feel the need to make harsh decisions for a greater benefit.


As one of the remaining fragments that in a commercialised world the beautiful game isn't entirely commercialised yet, nor is it restricted from the shackles of business, Leicester City just joined the list for those aspiring big teams. They can't contend with them on the pitch, but tried to on a management level - and the two out of sync things are a risk.

To put it this way, Claudio Ranieri would not have been fired if he hadn't won the title. Keeping the Foxes safe at home could have been done, and they surely would have anticipated similar fate. They would have nothing to be ashamed of if they went down.

The only thing to be ashamed of now is how they treated the manager. The craftsman of the miracle, kicked to the curb and back stabbed.

Maybe the beautiful game is not so beautiful anymore.

Image: The Telegraph

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TheSportMatrix | We Live For Sport: The Demise of Ranieri
The Demise of Ranieri
An in-depth look into Claudio Ranieri's sacking from Leicester City: football is not so beautiful anymore.
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