Leicester City fires Ranieri less than a year after Premier League title

One last time to say goodbye for Claudio RanieriNo one’s job appeared safer than Claudio Ranieri’s after he guided Leicester City on one of the most incredible championship runs in sports history. What a difference nine months can make. Ranieri was relieved of his duties as Leicester City’s manager Thursday as the club tries to salvage what they can from a trying season as defending Premier League champions.

Leicester City’s Premier League title was wholly unexpected given the budget and talent of the Foxes’ roster, and Ranieri received much of the credit for the club’s sudden success, whether it was for his defensive formations regularly stifling the league’s offensive juggernauts or the way his counter-attack philosophy turned Jamie Vardy into one of the league’s most effective strikers. Ranieri also kept his team focused for the entire season, succeeding where similarly surprising teams had faltered in the latter stages of the year.

Ranieri was named best FIFA football coach in 2016 for his efforts, and while Leicester City wasn’t expected to repeat as Premier League champions, fending off relegation didn’t appear to be a concern. That all changed after the Foxes won just five of their first 20 league matches. The counter-attack fueling Vardy stopped working and the defense no longer appeared cohesive—problems Ranieri was unable to fix over the course of this season.

N’Golo Kante was the only one of Leicester City’s key players to leave for a bigger club, and other transfer signings signalled the Foxes’ intent to remain competitive, which has not worked out as planned. Only a point separates Leicester City from relegation, and the team has yet to win in 13 Premier League road matches (10 losses, 3 draws). Whether or not the Foxes can stave off relegation will help determine the calibre of manager they can attract in the offseason, and the club’s board of directors released a statement declaring they felt the best opportunity to avoid relegation was without Ranieri.

The only area where Ranieri could still claim success was in Champions League play, where Leicester City topped Group G to advance to the round of 16. Vardy scored a crucial away goal Wednesday against Spanish club Sevilla in the first leg of the home-and-home series, which the Foxes trail 2-1.