Jamie Vardy has joined Kasper Schmeichel in denying any involvement in Claudio Ranieri’s sacking as Leicester boss.
Ranieri left the club on Thursday only nine months after guiding the Foxes to a remarkable Premier League triumph.
Vardy was one of the many rough diamonds Ranieri polished, with the striker’s form for Leicester earning him a place in the England team.
Writing on Instagram, Vardy said: “I must have written and deleted my words to this post a stupid amount of times! I owed (it to) Claudio to find the right and appropriate words!
“Claudio has and always will have my complete respect! What we achieved together and as a team was the impossible! He believed in me when many didn’t and for that I owe him my eternal gratitude.
“There is speculation I was involved in his dismissal and this (is) completely untrue, unfounded and is extremely hurtful! The only thing we are guilty of as a team is underachieving which we all acknowledge both in the dressing room and publicly and will do our best to rectify.
“I wish Claudio the very very best in whatever the future holds for him. Thank you Claudio for everything.”
Earlier, Schmeichel insisted reports of a meeting between the club’s owners and several players that led to Ranieri’s dismissal were untrue.
He told the BBC: “There’s absolutely no truth in that whatsoever. We are players and we can only affect (things) on the pitch. What happens above our heads at boardroom level is completely out of our control.
“All these reports about meetings, I don’t know where they’ve come from. What I can say is our owners are very hands on, they are in and around the club all the time.
“They come to practically every game, they come to the training ground and they speak to all the players regularly. We talk to them about all manner of things from the weather to the pitches to whatever.
“These guys are very successful businessmen and have taken this club from the bottom of the Championship to the top. They’re not going to let themselves be influenced by any players.”
Ranieri visited Leicester’s training ground on Saturday morning to say goodbye to his former players and staff.
“I don’t speak with anybody, just to say thank you to the fans. They are fantastic. Thank you,” he said when asked for a quick word by Sky Sports News as he drove away.
On how he was feeling, he said: “I feel good now, because what we achieved in Leicester… I hope it will happen again, but it will be very difficult.”
When asked if it had been an emotional meeting with his players, he insisted it had been “normal”.
Schmeichel said: “Claudio leaving is obviously very, very sad. We achieved the impossible together and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him for everything he achieved at this club. I have no problem with Claudio whatsoever.
“As everyone knows, he’s a classy guy. He came in and said his piece to the players, thanked us for our efforts and for last season and said goodbye. It’s a shame it’s come to this.
“You could hear that it hurt him and it hurts the players that we haven’t performed well enough to make this carry on. We’re in the position we’re in because we haven’t been good enough, it’s as simple as that.”
Playmaker Riyad Mahrez and captain Wes Morgan both took to Twitter to thank Ranieri.
Mahrez posted a picture of him with the Italian and wrote: “Big respect to this great man who helped us achieve history, you helped me build myself as a player and gave me the courage I needed.
“You believed in me from day one. Huge thank you for everything and good luck. God bless.”
Morgan said: “Would just like to say a big thank you to Claudio for what was achieved at Leicester and becoming Premier League champions and competing in the Champions League. This is something I’d never thought was possible and it happened. It was a pleasure to be your captain and I wish you all the best in the future.”
Leicester have lost their last five league games and are yet to score in the top flight in 2017 ahead of Monday’s visit of Liverpool.
In a statement released to Press Association Sport on Friday, Ranieri said: “My dream died.
“After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always. Sadly this was not to be.”