Gary Lineker has revealed Leicester’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri reduced him to tears, while Peter Shilton has praised the dismissal.
The former England striker claimed the Italian’s dismissal was a panic-driven move which showed a staggering “lack of gratitude”, tarnished the most incredible of Premier League triumphs and would harm the image of Leicester around the world.
Ranieri was dismissed on Thursday night with the Foxes just one point above the relegation zone, having defied odds of 5000-1 to land the championship last May.
Foxes fan Lineker said on Radio 4: “For me I shed a tear last night. I shed a tear for Claudio, I shed for football and I shed a tear for my club.
“I just think it’s inexplicable to me and it’s inexplicable I think a lot of football fans who love the game, but I suppose in some ways you can explain it in terms of a panic decision. And for me a wrong decision and it’s very sad.”
He added: “It’s a sign of modern football. What happened last season was pretty extraordinary under Claudio Ranieri and I think the lack of gratitude from the owners of the club – and who knows who else is involved in such a decision – beggars belief.
“Yes, in recent times we’ve seen a few managers lose their clubs after winning the Premier League, but they were mangers of clubs that expect to win titles and spend enough money on their clubs, so I suppose they can justify that and we see it at the big clubs in the world, the Real Madrids etc.
“But for a club like Leicester to win the league last season and the magnificence of that story and the likeability of the club, especially under Claudio Ranieri, the ultimate gentleman, it kind of demeans the club, it takes away from the glory of last season.
After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 23, 2017
“Whereas Leicester were hugely popular with everyone right around the world, to do something like this now I think loses a lot of that popularity.”
Asked if the decision to dispense with Ranieri tarnished the title win, Lineker added: “I think it does to a degree. That season will remain with us forever and it was truly special and a lot of that was of course down to the management. The same guy cannot now be considered incapable of doing his job just a few months later, having achieved what was for me the biggest miracle in team sport.”
Reports have claimed that Ranieri had lost the support of some of his senior players
“I would hope it’s not true because I think that would have been a betrayal,” Lineker said.
However, former England goalkeeper Shilton, who won the Second Division title in an eight-year spell with Leicester, said the club’s struggles this season made Ranieri’s departure understandable and praised those in charge for taking a “brave” decision.
He said on Radio 4: “Going down would be a disaster for Leicester and I suppose the board have made a very brave decision. Some people have mixed views, but relegation is on the horizon.
“If they stay in the Premier League then they’ve made the right decision. A lot of people will say there’s no sentiment in football, look at what he’s done for the club… but he’s had a lot of the season to get things going.
“There’s obviously some reason why not. We’re not privy to that, maybe the board are, maybe there’s unrest in the dressing room, who knows? Maybe the players just aren’t performing.
“At the end of the day Leicester haven’t taken the easy way out. It’s a tough decision because of what happened last year, but they made that decision and whether it’s right or wrong will be governed by whether they stay in the Premier League, because the form they are showing at the moment is relegation form.”
Put to Shilton that Ranieri’s sacking showed a lack of loyalty, he added: “Some people may say that, some people may say they (the owners) are business people.
“They gave improved contracts, people are judged on results. Claudio Ranieri will be a hero and a legend in Leicester forever because of what he achieved, the greatest thing the club have ever achieved.
“I was one of the people applauding him with his laid-back brilliant management style, but it just hasn’t worked this season.”
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said Ranieri’s dismissal was symptomatic of “the new football”.
Mourinho experienced similar treatment to his fellow countryman at Chelsea. He led the London club to the 2014-15 title, but was dismissed in December 2015 after a series of dreadful results and what was described as “palpable discord” with his players by technical director Michael Emenalo.
The Portuguese, who succeeded Ranieri at Stamford Bridge when his first spell at the club began in 2004, clearly sees the Italian’s exit as further proof of how ruthless football has become at the highest level.
He posted a picture of himself and Ranieri smiling, and wrote on Instagram: “Champion of England and FIFA manager of the year. Sacked. That’s the new football. Keep smiling amico. Nobody can delete the history you wrote.”