The news of Claudio Ranieri’s sacking as manager of Leicester City came as a huge surprise in one way, and an inevitable occurrence in another.
The Premier League has very little room for sentiment, but should the Foxes have held on to their miracle manager?
There’s no hiding from the fact that, in a results business, Leicester’s have been almost non-existent this season.
Just one point off the relegation zone, this is the season pundits expected Ranieri to have in 2015/16 – that it comes a year after winning the league title provides cruel context – would he have been sacked for enduring the same results last year?
His team have failed to score a league goal this year, and have lost five in a row, while of the sides below them, Hull City are getting their act together, and bottom side Sunderland remain just two points from the Foxes.
After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 23, 2017
Ranieri is, and will always be, the man who guided Leicester (LEICESTER!) to the Premier League title. Don’t normalise that fact.
Amassing 81 points (10 more than runners-up Arsenal), losing just three games all season, beating the best teams with regularity and doing it all with a smile, this was, is, and will always remain the greatest feat in the history of the Premier League.
Ranieri made kings of the Leicester players, and built a legacy for the club that will be difficult to beat.
Of course his achievement is a unique one, but in the cut and thrust of the Premier League, Ranieri is not the first champion of England to be handed his P45.
Jose Mourinho left Chelsea in 2015, the very same year he won the league in fact. Roberto Mancini departed Manchester City exactly one year after winning the Citizens’ first league title in 44 years, and Carlo Ancelotti left the Blues in 2011, a season after creating the highest goal-scoring team in the Premier League’s history.
The league lacks sentiment, but Ranieri is not the first to learn that.
4y 315d – There was just four years and 315 days between Jamie Vardy's last non-league goal and his Champions League goal tonight. Journey. pic.twitter.com/oM9WyxQTL2— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 22, 2017
“Hey man, we are in Champions League!” Those were the excitable words of Ranieri last season, attempting to deflect the pressure of a potential, and eventual title win.
More than that, Leicester are succeeding and overachieving in Europe’s elite competition. Winning their group ahead of Porto, it was only this week that they kept themselves alive against Sevilla in the last 16 with an away goal in Spain.
That’s Leicester. In the Champions League. With a chance to reach the quarter-finals. Should Ranieri have had the chance to experience that?
Leicester City Football Club with a business decision. It's a shame but money has no room for nostalgia. I'd have done the same.— Jake Gallagher (@MatchoftheDave) February 23, 2017
So far, so romantic for Leicester City, champions of England with European football in March to look forward to. But football’s not all about romance anymore.
In their title-winning season, the Foxes earned £93 million in TV revenue. That’s silly money, but furthermore, it’s silly money you will struggle to find anywhere else – not least in the Championship.
Comparing the 2013-16 Premier League TV deal to the 2012-15 Championship deal, the drop in earnings for teams is 96.5% – it’s hard to look past that when relegation is knocking at your door – even if you are the champions.
However, if it’s money Leicester are worried about, they have Ranieri to thank in so many ways.
The sale of N’Golo Kante for £30 million to Chelsea provided a nice profit after they bought him from Caen for £5 million in 2015, while the sale of Jeffrey Schlupp to Crystal Palace for £12.5 million is a demonstration of the rise in value of Leicester’s assets – they could have sold Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez for £60 million thanks to their manager.
And participation in the Champions League doesn’t just provide sentimental value either – the Foxes have earned over €20 million from UEFA’s top competition.
Leicester became globally famous thanks to Ranieri – could they have done that without him?
No. Absolutely not. Claudio Ranieri could have taken Leicester down to League Two and should still be regarded as a club legend.
Leicester will never achieve anything as special as the 2015/16 league title for 50 years – furthermore, has anyone ever won the league with a smile on their face like Ranieri’s?
The previous season was a wonderful dream, the like of which the Italian urged his players not to wake up from. Sadly, his sacking is very much a reality.