Leicester City’s Italian manager Claudio Ranieri watches from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Everton at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on December 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS /
Claudio Ranieri was told he is safe from the sack on Tuesday as the Thai owners of struggling champions Leicester pledged their “unwavering support” to the under-fire manager.
Ranieri’s side are just one point above the relegation zone after Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United and speculation had mounted that the Italian was on the brink of being dismissed.
But amid reports Ranieri has lost his players’ backing due to his confusing tactics and selections, Leicester’s owners have tried to ease the crisis by making it clear they still believe in the man who led the Foxes to an against-the-odds Premier League title triumph last season.
“In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football Club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for its first-team manager Claudio Ranieri,” a statement on the club’s website read.
“While there is a collective appreciation from everyone at the club that recent form needs to improve, the unprecedented success achieved in recent seasons has been based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges.
“The entire club is and will remain united behind its manager and behind its players, collectively and firmly focused on the challenges ahead.”
With an FA Cup fourth-round replay against second-tier Derby at the King Power Stadium looming on Wednesday, Ranieri will welcome the vote of confidence.
But an embarrassing defeat to their local rivals would put the pressure back on Ranieri, whose team have lost their last four league matches and face a crucial clash at fellow strugglers Swansea on Sunday.
“I know the views of the chairman. Maybe he wanted to stop all the speculation. I didn’t ask them to do this. I knew what the chairman was thinking” Ranieri said at a press conference that took place soon after the statement was released.
“I understand football. You have to do your job and I have to do my job. When you win three matches you are ‘God’, when you lose three you are not.
“This is not a crisis. When you aren’t winning you lose confidence, it is normal.”
Asked about a report that Ranieri had replaced chicken burgers with pasta in the Leicester players’ training ground canteen as punishment for their poor form, the 65-year-old laughed off the story and insisted he retained the squad’s support.
“Never have I seen a chicken burger, only deep fried chicken. It’s fantastic. I don’t like pasta,” he said.
“The dressing room is fantastic. We try to do our best, but this season everything is wrong. The relationship is the same as last season. I speak the same English and they understand me.”
Leicester have won only once in their last nine league games, have yet to score a league goal in 2017 and have mustered just five league victories all season.
It is a remarkable fall from grace for the club that captivated fans around the world with their title heroics.