Player power gets better of Ranieri
For many, Claudio Ranieri deserved a job for life at Leicester. What he achieved last season, turning a bunch of mostly journeymen and cast-offs into Premier League champions, was the stuff of dreams and comic books. Ranieri had made the impossible possible, bringing a touch of romanticism back to a sport that has become a cold, hard, money-driven industry in so many ways.
It meant that there was an outpouring of dismay and incredulity when Ranieri's firing was announced on Thursday evening. He was informed of his departure by Leicester's board immediately after his return to England after the Champions League match at Sevilla, where Leicester lost 2-1 on Wednesday.
The general opinion was that he deserved so much better.
"Unforgivable," tweeted Gary Lineker, the former Leicester and England striker.
"Ungrateful English," read the headline on the front page of Friday's edition of Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, Ranieri's native country.
Look deeper, though, and there was a sense of inevitability about the ruthless decision made by Leicester's Thai owners. Ranieri is simply the latest manager to be toppled by player power.
In short, his players had stopped playing for him. Only last weekend, Ranieri accused his team of lacking "heart and desire" in a 1-0 loss to third-tier club Millwall in the FA Cup. The virtues that carried them to the most unlikely title triumph in the history of English football - notably team spirit, organisation and hard work - had vanished.
yesterday, sections of the British media reported that senior players told Leicester's owners in a meeting after the Sevilla game that things were not working with Ranieri.
Player power isn't a new phenomenon in the Premier League.
In December 2015, Jose Mourinho was fired by Chelsea seven months after guiding the London team to the Premier League title. Days before he was fired, Mourinho said after a 2-1 loss at Leicester that he felt his work was "betrayed" by his players.
In May 2013, Roberto Mancini was fired by Manchester City, less than a year after winning the Premier League.
"It's not right that the players decide if the manager must be sacked or not," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said yesterday. "If this happens, it means the club is poor, without power. I don't believe this. I don't trust this. I don't want to listen to these types of stories because it's frustrating for a manager to imagine that the players can decide your destiny."
"CHAMPION OF ENGLAND and FIFA MANAGER of THE YEAR. Sacked," read a post on Mourinho's Instagram account late Thursday. "That's the new football Claudio. Keep smiling."