After manager Claudio Ranieri’s departure, Leicester City need energy, not sterility, says Shamik Chakrabarty

By: | Published: March 5, 2017 3:58 AM

The Leicester City owners showed pragmatism at the start of the ongoing season. Their brief to Ranieri was to ensure safety.

Grapevine has it that some senior players met club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after the Sevilla game and the management eventually decided to call time on Ranieri’s Leicester City career. (Reuters)

White Album, released in 1968, had dropped a huge hint about the Beatles’ impending split. The Fab Four wanted to move on: Ob la di ob la da life goes on bra/La la how the life goes on…

The King Power Stadium DJ played the Beatles before the Premier League fixture between Leicester City and Liverpool last Monday. But White Album strangely remained untouched. The match came on the heels of a very controversial separation. Only four days previously, Claudio Ranieri, the greatest manager in the history of Leicester City Football Club, had been sacked. White Album should have been the central theme.

During the next 90 minutes, as they hammered Liverpool 3-1, Leicester City players provided enough evidence that they had already moved on. In fact, at times, it felt like they were revelling in the departure of the 65-year-old manager. But Ranieri wasn’t just another manager. He guided the club to the first league title in its 133-year history. And only nine months after holding aloft the glittering Premier League trophy, he was gone. “Dilly ding, dilly gone”, as Henry Winter put it in his brilliant The Times column. Leicester fans’ parody, slamming the club’s Thai owners, was witty as well—“Dilly ding, dilly wrong”…

A hearse pulled up in front of King Power before the start of the match. It contained a club shirt and a message, ‘RIP Football’, written in blue flowers. On 65 minutes, supporters wore Ranieri face masks as a sign of solidarity to the fallen hero. Leicester were leading 3-0 then but, at least momentarily, the scoreline became peripheral. As the game wore on, fans asked caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare to give them a wave, who duly obliged. After the match, Jamie Vardy and co returned to the dressing room to a standing ovation. It was Leicester’s first Premier League win this year and the club faithful rejoiced. They, too, started moving on…

For purists and romantics, it’s a tale of insanity. “After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad,” Gary Linekar had tweeted. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was at his sarcastic best. “There have been a few strange decisions in 16/17: Brexit, Trump and Ranieri…” Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho attended the League Cup final pre-match press conference with ‘CR’ monogrammed on his training top. Ranieri was fired a day after Leicester played their Champions League round of 16 match against Sevilla. They lost 2-1, but had an important away goal in their bag.

Grapevine has it that some senior players met club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after the Sevilla game and the management eventually decided to call time on Ranieri’s Leicester City career. The Italian had lost the dressing room long back. Picking Ahmed Musa over Demarai Gray became the tipping point. To be honest, Leicester winning the title last term, defying a 5,000-1 odd, was a mini fluke. They played wonderfully well alright, but it was unusual that top dogs of English football went into a collective meltdown. The whole scenario had been pretty similar to the 1994-95 season, when Blackburn Rovers became the crowned champions in the top tier. A little over two decades hence, the club is struggling in the Championship, suffering for a lame ownership.

The Leicester City owners showed pragmatism at the start of the ongoing season. Their brief to Ranieri was to ensure safety. But after five league defeats on the bounce, the Foxes dropped to the relegation zone. Yes, the players weren’t performing up to their potential. But Ranieri had to take the blame. He had to go. Modern football genuflects to player power. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. Jose Mourinho found it out the hard way at Chelsea last season. Ranieri was at the receiving end this year. As for the Leicester City players, there had been a significant drop in intensity under Ranieri this term. It could be because of Ranieri’s strange team selections at times or his tactics. The players wanted to return to the counter-attacking 4-4-2 formation they have had been comfortable with. Also, Ranieri getting all the accolades for realising an impossible dream didn’t go down well with those who performed on the pitch. Whatever the reason, a sudden upturn in performance against Liverpool was striking.

Ranieri also had a poor close season, transfer-wise. He allowed the team’s engine room, N’Golo Kante, to leave. Maybe, at £30 million, Chelsea’s offer was too lucrative to resist, but the erstwhile manager failed to find a proper replacement. Kante’s departure meant the defence became leaky under pressure. Also, Vardy and Riyad Mahrez missed help upfront.

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Life will go on at King Power, under Shakespeare for the time being before a long-term managerial appointment is secured. Some reports suggest the defending Premier League champions have sounded out Roy Hodgson. Leicester City are entitled to appoint whoever they like as their next manager. But this is a club that every neutral loves, simply because it scripted football’s greatest story ever. From that perspective, football lovers want them to progress. Leicester City need energy, not sterility. Hodgson would be two steps backwards.

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