Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri said his “dream died” after being sacked nine months after leading them to an extraordinary Premier League title.
The Midlands club announced on Thursday night that they had parted company with the Italian owing to a “painful but necessary” decision in a bid to avoid relegation, less than 24 hours after the first leg of the Champions League last 16 defeat by Sevilla.
Ranieri, who was told he would be leaving with immediate effect on his return from Spain by director of football Jon Rudkin, has released a statement in which he expressed his sadness at the end of a “wonderful journey” with the club he will always love.
The 65-year-old said: “Yesterday 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. I wish to thank my wife Rosanna and all my family for their never ending support during my time at Leicester. My thanks go to Paolo and Andrea who accompanied me on this wonderful journey. To Steve Kutner and Franco Granello for bringing me the opportunity to become a champion.
“I have to thank Leicester City Football Club. The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever. Thank you to all the journalists and the media who came with us and enjoyed reporting on the greatest story in football.
“My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club, all the players, the staff, everybody who was there and was part of what we achieved. But mostly to the supporters. You took me into your hearts from day one and loved me. I love you too.
“No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.
“It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget. It’s been a pleasure and an honour to be a champions with all of you. Claudio Ranieri.”
The Italian signed a new four-year contract at the King Power Stadium only last August, meaning he can expect to be compensated in the region of £3million.
Ranieri, who was honoured as coach of the year by FIFA, has received widespread sympathy for being dismissed just 298 days after the club were crowned champions of England, but he was criticised for the club’s free-fall towards a relegation battle.
The former Chelsea manager left members of his squad bemused by several unexplained alterations to tactics and personnel, with Ahmed Musa’s inclusion instead of the in-form Demarai Gray in Seville adding to their grievances.
Senior players expressed their concerns in a meeting arranged by club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat in Spain, and it is understood that Ranieri was not given the opportunity to say goodbye to his players in person.
Ranieri’s assistant manager Craig Shakespeare will take caretaker charge of the Foxes’ home Premier League game against Liverpool on Monday night, with the club yet to put a timeframe on when the new manager will be installed.