London – Claudio Ranieri visited Leicester City’s training ground on Saturday to say farewell to his former players and staff after his shock sacking.
Ranieri had visited the club’s Belvoir Drive headquarters to clean out his office on Friday following his dismissal 24 hours earlier.
But the 65-year-old Italian was unable to say goodbye to the players who helped him become a Leicester legend during last season’s incredible Premier League title-winning campaign because they were on a day off.
So he returned on Saturday to have a last meeting with the group following the decision to sack him, which was made by the club’s Thai owners after Leicester slumped into the relegation dogfight with five successive league defeats.
“I just say thank you to the fans. They are fantastic. Thank you,” Ranieri said when questioned by Sky Sports News as he drove away.
“I feel good now, because what we achieved in Leicester. I hope it will happen again, but it will be very difficult.”
Asked if it had been an emotional meeting with his players, he insisted it had been “normal”.
Leicester go into Monday’s crucial clash with Liverpool sitting only one point above the relegation zone, but the occasion will be overshadowed by Ranieri’s absence.
“My dream died,” he had said in a statement on Friday.
“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. I wish to thank my wife Rosanna and all my family for their never ending support during my time at Leicester.
“Mostly I have to thank Leicester City Football Club. The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever.
“Thank you to all the journalists and the media who came with us and enjoyed reporting on the greatest story in football.”
Reports claim Ranieri was a victim of player power after several senior players grew unhappy with the Italian’s tactical tinkering and told the owners they would be relegated if he stayed.
But Foxes midfielder Andy King took to Instagram to express his gratitude to Ranieri on Saturday.
“Having said thanks personally to the gaffa (sic) this morning at training, I’d like to publicly say a big thank you for helping me and my club win the Premier League last season and compete in the Champions League this year,” he wrote.
“That is every young player’s dream and I’d like to say thank you and good luck in the future.”
Leicester caretaker boss Craig Shakespeare also dismissed the rumours of dressing-room unrest.
“I’m not aware of any senior players going to the owners so that’s news to me,” he said on Friday.
“What I would say, there was a lot of frustration because of results but he hadn’t lost the dressing room.”
Leicester could drop into the relegation zone before they play Liverpool if results go against them over the weekend.
But Shakespeare is confident Leicester have enough quality to secure their survival in the remaining 13 games.
Two years ago, under Nigel Pearson, the Foxes won seven of their last nine games to survive, having been bottom and seven points adrift of the safety line.
“It would be nice to get that again. It was a great time then in terms of we were written off,” he said.
“There is enough talent in that dressing room for us to go on a winning run.
“There’s frustrations with everybody, coaching staff, players, and I think there’s lots of reasons why.
“This squad are good enough to get themselves out of this — that will be the message.
“Momentum is a big word in football. We had that last year. What I would say is they’ve trained well over the last few weeks especially. We’ve refocused ourselves.”