MILAN (AFP) - Former Roma coach Claudio Ranieri remained tight-lipped on Monday (Sept 24) amid talk that he could be in line to replace under-fire Eusebio di Francesco in the Stadio Olimpico hot seat.
The club's billionaire American owner James Pallotta said he was "disgusted" after the Italian Serie A giants plunged to 14th with a 2-0 loss at Bologna.
The 66-year-old Ranieri led Leicester to the English Premier League title in 2016, but has been without a club since leaving French Ligue 1 team Nantes last May.
"I am a fan, Roma is in my heart, but I hope that di Francesco can move forward," he told Radio Anch'Io Sport when asked if he would be interested in a move back to his hometown club.
The former defender started his senior football career in Rome in 1973 and later coached the club for two years from 2009, just missing out on the Serie A title in 2010.
"That Scudetto we lost in the last half-hour of the final day still burns. I think about it often, although I partly redeemed myself at Leicester," recalled the former Chelsea, Napoli and Inter Milan boss, who has said he is keen to continue in management.
Meanwhile, Ranieri believes Roma are paying the price for selling key players, rather than blaming di Francesco, 49, who took over in 2017 and led the team to third last season.
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson moved to Liverpool during the summer with Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan going to Inter and Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman to Marseille.
"Di Francesco is one of the best young coaches we have in Italy, for reasons of financial fair play the team has been changed, three players who were the backbone of Rome have been sold," he said.
"When a coach signs a contract, he'll know his team's philosophy.
"Di Francesco knew what he was signing up for.
"Roma have been selling their best players for years, although it's clear no one expected the team to perform like they have.
"The players seem afraid of touching the ball, as if it's hot.
"The potential is there," added Ranieri, "but we must find the spark."
According to press reports, di Francesco has been given two games to save his job, starting against promoted Frosinone midweek, before the city derby against Lazio at the weekend.
Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has also been touted as a possible replacement, along with Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa, who is currently in charge of Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.
Sousa coached Serie A side Fiorentina from 2015 to 2017.