Cast your minds back to May 7th 2016, A Saturday evening under the glare of the lights at a wet and windy King Power Stadium. Everton were the visitors but in all truth, they were only there to make up the numbers.
It was the conclusion of arguably one of Britain’s greatest ever sporting stories, Leicester City were presented with the Barclays Premier League Trophy. The well documented 5000/1 shots had literally defied all of the odds.
Fast forward 9 months to February 2017 and just over 2 weeks after a statement was released by the board announcing their “unwavering support” they decided to tell Mr Ranieri that his time in charge was over.
A disappointing and cut throat act from the Thai owners? Undoubtedly yes. A surprise given the football world we live in? Sadly not.
Leicester City’s title defence has been a horrific one. Currently hovering around the drop zone, bang out of form (Liverpool result aside) and The SkyBet Championship starting to look like a distinct possibility for next season.
Champions League nights and trips to Seville could be replaced with 46 matches of pure fight. One saving grace is that they have been there, done that and have the winners t-shirts already.
Of course they deserved to bask in their glory but this title party has felt never ending. Trips all over the world, magazine deals, new cars and bumper new contracts have 100% drawn focus from the bread and butter of playing football!
The Italian was of course not without blame in this season dismal title defence. Ranieri was given the nickname “Tinkerman” from his Chelsea days due to the amount of changes he’d make from game to game, this season was different from those past Stamford Bridge days.
He stuck and kept faith, perhaps blindly with the same players that had delivered the unlikeliest of successes last May. Had he taken a step back from all of the commotion, locked himself in a dark room and thought about nothing other than football he may have made difficult yet necessary decisions.
His loyalty to Vardy, Mahrez and Morgan in particular has proved to be detrimental in his demise.
The side from the East Midlands made a similar error in judgement to past champions, they didn’t strengthen adequately for what was sure to be a different season, when your champions the only way to go is down. Ranieri should have been beating down the door of the CEO’s office demanding quality additions to provide squad depth.
They were all linked with moves…Arsenal’s and Barcelona’s were mentioned but ultimately they lost the one player they simply couldn’t afford to lose. N’Golo Kante should have been given the freedom of the city in an attempt to get the French international to stick around for another year or two.
He’s gone to Chelsea and just look at them now, we also believe that Kante will sweep the boards at this season’s end of campaign awards.
The sacking has been confirmed and the players, club and the fans will now start the moving on process.
Whatever happens over the next few weeks – be it relegation or survival, the memories and emotions of the past 12 months will outweigh anything that most football fans will ever feel…Claudio Ranieri you leave Leicester City as a champion!