Leicester City have announced that manager Claudio Ranieri has been sacked.
The 65-year-old’s position had come under increasing scrutiny this season, with Leicester unable to get close to the standards they hit in last term’s remarkable Premier League title triumph.
The Foxes have lost seven of their last nine matches, including Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Sevilla, while a return of just five wins in 25 league matches has left them one point above the relegation zone.
And despite the more encouraging performance in the 2-1 loss in Spain, the club have decided to part company with the manager who led them to title glory only nine months ago.
“Leicester City Football Club has tonight [Thursday] parted company with its first team Manager, Claudio Ranieri,” the club said in a statement.
“Claudio, appointed City manager in July 2015, led the Foxes to the greatest triumph in the club’s 133-year history last season, as we were crowned champions of England for the first time. His status as the most successful Leicester City manager of all time is without question.
“However, domestic results in the current campaign have placed the club’s Premier League status under threat and the board reluctantly feels that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club’s greatest interest.
“Vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said: ‘This has been the most difficult decision we have had to make in nearly seven years since King Power took ownership of Leicester City. But we are duty-bound to put the club’s long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be.
“‘Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skillful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City.
“‘His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale. We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve.
“‘It was never our expectation that the extraordinary feats of last season should be replicated this season. Indeed, survival in the Premier League was our first and only target at the start of the campaign. But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games.’”
Ranieri’s assistant manager Paolo Benetti and conditioning coach Andrea Azzalin have also left the club. Another assistant, Craig Shakespeare, and coach Mike Stowell will take temporary charge of the first team.
The decision comes just 16 days after Leicester released a statement in which they expressed their “unwavering support” for Ranieri despite their poor form.
Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson in July 2015 and steered Leicester to arguably the most unexpected title triumph in the history of English football.
They finished 10 points ahead of closest rivals Arsenal, with Ranieri’s side winning 23 and losing only three of their 38 matches. They then topped Group G with four wins from six games in their first foray into the Champions League this season.
Leicester host Liverpool at the King Power Stadium in their next match on Monday.