LONDON • Leicester City fans around the world were left stunned by the sacking of manager Claudio Ranieri, who was removed from his post by the club's Thai owners on Thursday.
Leading the chorus of condemnation was former England and Leicester striker Gary Lineker. The television commentator tweeted that it was "unforgivable" and added on BBC radio: "I shed a tear last night. I shed a tear for Claudio, I shed a tear for football and I shed a tear for my club.
"It is inexplicable to me, it's inexplicable to a lot of football fans who love the game and I suppose you can explain it in terms of a panic decision and for me a wrong decision and it is very sad."
Ranieri guided the Foxes to an improbable Premier League title triumph last May but the team have struggled this season, hovering just a point and a place above the relegation zone after 25 matches.
In Italy, the media was aghast at the decision to dismiss the 65-year-old Rome native, who was last month named as Fifa men's coach of the year.
The headline of one of its biggest newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport read "English ingrates" and an editorial inside read: "Leicester, the club who with Ranieri became a prince courted by the world's media, return to being a normal frog."
CURSE OF WINNING THE PREMIER LEAGUE
Four of the last five Premier League-winning managers left by the end of the following season and the other, Manuel Pellegrini, within two years of his title triumph.
2011-12 Manchester City
Roberto Mancini sacked in May 2013
2012-13 Manchester United
Alex Ferguson retired immediately
2013-14 Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini sacked in June 2016
Jose Mourinho sacked in December 2015
2015-16 Leicester City
Claudio Ranieri sacked in February 2017
Claudio Ranieri discovered his time was up just 298 days after Leicester were crowned English champions.
Supporters in Singapore were equally vocal in their displeasure.
Leicester native and broker Ben Wheeler, 36, said: "It's unfair given the enormity of what we achieved last season.
"He earned enough credit from last season and deserves a bit more time to get us out of this mess of being near the bottom of the table."
Preston Phillips, who works in sales, said the players had to bear responsibility as well. The 52-year-old Singaporean added: "We don't know Ranieri personally but he seems to be a nice man, very forgiving and gives the players a bit of freedom, maybe it got to their heads."
News of Ranieri's sacking made it to local news bulletins in Bangkok, the home country of owner and King Power duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, but generally took second billing to a police stand-off at a Buddhist temple.
One Leicester fan told Reuters the owners had acted disgracefully.
"I understand that their money led to promotion and the Premier League title but without Ranieri, we would be nowhere either," Phet Adirekul, 36, said.
Even Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who has been critical of Ranieri in the past, was sympathetic. He wrote on Instagram: "Champion of England and Fifa manager of the year. Sacked. That's the new football. Keep smiling amico (Italian for friend). Nobody can delete the history you wrote."
A minority, however, understood the club's actions. Steve Fox wrote on the Leicester Mercury's Facebook page: "We have been awful this season. You can't get rid of all the players so I guess the manager has to go."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
•Additional reporting by Nicole Chia