Claudio Ranieri’s Sacking: A Decision that Leicester City Had to Make

It was announced on Thursday that Premier League champions Leicester City had relieved Claudio Ranieri of his duties as manager. The decision seems to have divided the world of football, with many neutrals siding with the Italian. The consensus seems to be that, based on what he did last season, he should have been kept on until at least the summer. For the second season in row, the champions of England have sacked their manager within twelve months of steering them to the title.

Ranieri’s sacking seems a little harsh, given that he steered the club to its greatest achievement less than a year ago. It does, however, look as though the club were forced into a position where they had little choice but to dispense with his services. On current form, they are on a seemingly relentless march towards the Championship.


The whole country seemed to get behind Leicester last season. An unfancied club leapfrogging the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and the Manchester clubs to participate in, and eventually win, a title race made it the most exciting season in years. Leicester had been given odds of 5000-1 at the start of the season.

Ranieri took over a club that had escaped relegation by the skin of its teeth the previous season. He scraped the three centre backs formation that Nigel Pearson had put in place, and switched to a 4-4-2. With N’Golo Kanté protecting the defence, the onus was on fast paced counter-attacking football. Riyad Mahrez hit such a vein of impressive form, linking up with Jamie Vardy, that he won both PFA (Players’ and Fans’) Player of the Year awards.

Nobody seemed to take much notice as they topped the table in the early weeks of the season. When they were still in the hunt by Christmas, many speculated that they could challenge for the top four, but that they would probably start dropping points sooner or later. It wasn’t until this time last year that people began to recognise them as serious contenders. By that time, Chelsea, City and United were already realistically out of contention. Leicester won the title, finishing eleven points ahead of Arsenal in second place.

This Season

Leicester’s title defence has been nothing short of a disaster. Heavy defeats by Manchester United and Chelsea (twice) and Liverpool, who they face on Monday night, haven’t helped. The main issue, however, is how they have performed against teams around them and below them. Not only have they not won a Premier League game in 2017, but they haven’t scored a single goal in the competition in that time.

Their most recent league game was against Swansea City, who were bottom of the table at the start of 2017. The Swans’ 2-0 victory saw them leapfrog Leicester into 15th place, leaving the champions one point above the drop zone. Since then, the Foxes have been dumped out of the F.A. Cup by League One side Millwall. Even their Champions League defeat against Sevilla gave a false impression. The 2-1 scoreline would probably have been much worse without the heroic efforts of Kasper Schmiechel in goal.

It seems that the board had already made up their minds about Ranieri after the Swansea and Millwall games. Prior to that they had given the Italian the dreaded vote of confidence, stating that his position was safe. He was sacked the day after the Sevilla game. The reaction on social media from the “neutrals” who cheered them on last season seems to be that, because of Ranieri’s sacking, they would like to see them relegated at the end of the season.

Harsh or Fair?

This is a situation that most football fans wouldn’t have wanted to see happen. Leicester’s title win is probably the greatest achievement in almost 25 years, since the Premier League was formed. They won so many admirers for the way they upset the odds to lead the table, and held their nerve by staying there. It’s a sad and unfortunate end to what was a modern day football fairytale.

The club themselves won’t have taken this decision lightly. Leciester have been in the bottom half of the table practically all season. They have given Ranieri plenty of time to sort the situation out, but it hasn’t happened. More importantly, it is difficult to see how it would have changed had the Italian remained in charge. There even reports that many of the senior players went to the board, stating they had lost confidence in the manager.

The Root of All Evil

The cliché about there being no loyalty in football is truer than ever in today’s game. Chelsea proved that by sacking José Mourinho last season, despite him being their most successful ever manager. But people need to see this from the club’s point of view. If they were relegated from the league that they won last season, the financial cost to them could be staggering.

Last summer, many of Leicester’s players were handed improved deals as a result of their title success. While the club’s wage bill probably pales to that of the likes of Chelsea, United and City, their salaries are likely to be higher than the majority of Championship clubs pay. Naturally, players like Vardy and Mahrez would be unlikely to struggle to find new employers should the club be relegated, but not all of Leicester’s players can say that. Those on long term contracts with high wages may wish to see out those deals, rather than go to another Premier League side on less money.

Clubs relegated from the Premier League receive Parachute Payments for up to three years if they do not return to England’s top flight. According to the Birmingham Mail, Aston Villa will receive around £87 million over three years if they are not promoted in that time. Compare that to the current television deal in place just for being in the Premier League. Even the club who finishes bottom of the table stand to make around £100 million just in that one season. That figure increases depending on where a club finishes. The higher they finish, the greater the payment.

The fact is that Leicester City, like any other football club, are a business first and foremost. Whether Ranieri’s sacking turns around their season or not, they had to make a decision. They have made the one they felt would benefit them long term. Unfortunately, loyalty doesn’t keep a club from being relegated, facing financial meltdown or even administration.

Ranieri’s Sacking: The Last Word

Given that Leciester have yet to win, even score a goal, in the Premier League in 2017 would have earned most managers the sack in their position. If it is true that the manager was facing a player revolt as well, the club seemed to have little choice. It’s not as if they can replace the entire squad, even if the transfer window was open. Ranieri’s sacking seems to be the only option that was available to them.

There’s no guarantee that the change in manager will keep them in the Premier League. Whoever his replacement is will have to work with the same squad, as the transfer window is closed. It has to be said, however, that there is no question that both Hull and Swansea have benefitted since changing their manager. It’s possible that Ranieri would have turned it around, as unlikely as this looked and that the new man in charge will have no impact at all. But the board had to be seen to be doing something.

It is hard to believe the contrast between this season and last. The players have regularly looked disinterested at times this term; whether that is due to the improved contracts or not is irrelevant. In spite of his achievements last season, the Italian seemed to have no idea how to fix the problem.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Claudio Ranieri. He is universally liked and respected throughout the game. Even his farewell statement had a touch of class about it, thanking everybody involved with the club.

Ranieri’s sacking brings to an end one of the most remarkable football stories ever. Leicester City’s title triumph must rank as the greatest achievement in Premier League history. But history is exactly what it is. Had the board not acted, it’s likely that their Premier League status would have been as well.

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