Premier League champions Leicester City have sensationally sacked manager Claudio Ranieri just nine months after winning the title last season. The relegation-threatened Foxes have not won a Premier League game in 2017 and are just one point above the drop zone in the top flight.
The King Power Stadium club were knocked out of the FA Cup by League One Millwall last weekend, before Ranieri's final game in charge saw them produce a spirited display in losing 2-1 to Sevilla in the Champions League last 16 first leg. Nevertheless, the news is a major shock for the 56-year-old, who was the toast of English football less than a year ago.
"This has been the most difficult decision we have had to make in nearly seven years since King Power took ownership of Leicester City," vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha told the club's official website. "But we are duty-bound to put the Club's long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be.
"Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skilful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City. His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the Club and develop its profile on a global scale. We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve.
"It was never our expectation that the extraordinary feats of last season should be replicated this season. Indeed, survival in the Premier League was our first and only target at the start of the campaign. But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games."
Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell will lead the team until a new manager is appointed, which could see them in charge for the visit of Liverpool on Monday [27 February'.
Ranieri, who is the second title-winning manager to be sacked the following season after Jose Mourinho was dismissed by Chelsea, was named Fifa coach of the year as Leicester won their first league title in stunning circumstances last term. However, the hangover from the title win has proved too much for the Italian to bare.
Leicester have won just five league games all season and have not prevailed in the top flight since overcoming West Ham United on New Year's Eve. Five weeks later Ranieri was given a vote of by the Leicester ownership, who insisted he had "unwavering" support. But that show of faith has lasted just five further games.