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Demise of a miracle worker

Nine months ago, if you were to have entered a betting shop and asked for the odds on Claudio Ranieri being sacked from his Leicester job, you would surely have got numbers infinitely greater than the 5000-1 on the Foxes becoming champions at the start of last season.

The fickle, brutal world of contemporary football reared its ugly head last week. The dilly-dong miracle worker was relieved from his duties at the helm of Leicester a scant 24 hours after his team got a decent result in the Champions League – a 2-1 loss at in-form Sevilla, which kept the Foxes’ quarterfinal hopes alive.

And then, as if to vindicate the decision of the Thai owners to chop the Tinkerman, Leicester went and put in their best performance in months in a clinical 3-1 league win over Liverpool. Dressing room unrest had been strenuously denied by Leicester players, yet a suddenly revitalised Jamie Vardy scored his first goals in months. His opener was Leicester's first in the top flight since 31 December, ending a run of 637 minutes without finding the net in the Premier League. A new broom in caretaker boss Carig Shakespeare truly swept clean.

The outpouring of sympathy for Ranieri is easy to understand. The hard-nosed decision by the owners of Leicester may be less so. But in cash-flush football these days, the bottom line is all-consuming. The drop from Premier League to Championship means income is practically halved. It’s a drop that some clubs don’t recover from in a hurry. Ask Leeds United, Aston Villa, Wolves, Portsmouth, Wigan and many others.

Leicester themselves dropped down to the third tier of English football a short eight years ago, and the fear of a similar slide and related drying up of funds, no matter how rosy the recent past, must surely have weighed heavily on the owner’s minds when making their decision.

There are those who believe that the Leicester miracle last year was an aberration. That the Foxes punched way above their weight and their usual battleground is always the fight to stay in the top flight. In other words, normal service has merely been resumed this season.

The full magnitude of Ranieri’s achievements with Leicester will probably only be fully realised in 20 years’ time. No one can ever take away the Tinkerman’s achievements. However, the truth is that he was in charge one of the worst title defences in English history - one that has left Leicester facing the real prospect of becoming the first reigning champions to be relegated since Manchester City in 1938.

That’s football. If you want loyalty, get a dog.

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