LONDON • Claudio Ranieri has admitted his "dream died" when he was sacked by Leicester, with the Italian paying tribute to the supporters for the "amazing adventure" which led to the English football club being crowned Premier League champions last season for the first time.
As numerous figures - from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to England rugby union coach Eddie Jones - showed their solidarity following his departure on Thursday, Ranieri released a statement on Friday in which he expressed his sadness at leaving the role he had occupied since replacing Nigel Pearson in July 2015.
"Yesterday my dream died," he said. "After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always. Sadly this was not to be."
As the Italian, 65, cleared out his office at the club's training ground on Friday, it was left to the caretaker manager, Craig Shakespeare, to deny reports that a mutiny had led to the downfall of the man who only nine months ago oversaw one of the most improbable sporting triumphs in history.
Admitting he felt like "a pantomime villain" as he addressed the media, the 53-year-old dismissed speculation that he had fallen out with the manager and was adamant that senior members of the squad had not urged the club's owners to make a change only two weeks after the club had offered Ranieri its "unwavering support".
"I can understand why the public would perceive that but hopefully I have allayed those fears that it was pure speculation. There is no foundation to it," Shakespeare said.
Yesterday my dream died. After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always.
CLAUDIO RANIERI, former Leicester manager, expressing his disappointment at not being able to stay on at the club.
For me there have been a few strange decisions in 16/17: Brexit, Trump, Ranieri. Do I have to understand it all the time - obviously not. I have no idea why Leicester did this.
JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, questioning the logic of sacking Ranieri.
However, amid reports that striker Jamie Vardy and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were among the players most unhappy with Ranieri, it was notable that the Leicester squad did not take to social media to support their departed manager.
Shakespeare, who also served as an assistant to Sam Allardyce during the latter's ill-fated spell with England, will take charge of the team for tomorrow's crucial meeting with Liverpool at the King Power Stadium as Leicester attempt to arrest a slide in which they have picked up only one point from six league matches.
Roberto Mancini, the former Manchester City manager and an early favourite to replace his compatriot, has reportedly distanced himself from the job, with Shakespeare hinting he could be interested in taking the role permanently.
Shakespeare said: "Do I think I can do the job? Yes. Does it faze me? No. But again, the focus is just on Monday night. I don't want to appear too bullish. I want to send the right messages to the players. We will have a right go at trying to turn this around."
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club chairman, took to Instagram to plead with supporters for their understanding of his decision to sack Ranieri and admitted that Leicester were in "crisis".
"We have done our best as a management," he wrote. "Please respect my decision. I will never let the club down. No need to talk about money. As you can see, all money goes back to invest in everywhere for the club."
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp ranked news of Ranieri's dismissal alongside Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the most mystifying decisions of recent times.
"Somebody that probably deserves the Leicester stadium to be named 'Claudio Ranieri' - and he is sacked," Klopp said. "For me there have been a few strange decisions in 16/17: Brexit, Trump, Ranieri. Do I have to understand it all the time - obviously not. I have no idea why Leicester did this."
Jones said: "You coach them to a win and next season you get sacked, I feel sorry for the guy."
Mourinho, who attended a press conference on Friday with a training top bearing the initials "CR" in "homage" to Ranieri, blamed the Italian's departure on the players.
"I thought last season when I was sacked as a champion, it was a giant, negative thing. Now I recognise it's peanuts compared to Claudio," the United manager said.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON