London: Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is the bookmakers’ favourite to replace compatriot Claudio Ranieri as Leicester City manager after the Italian was sacked by the Premier League champions on Thursday.
British bookmaker Sky Bet was offering odds of 6/4 on Mancini taking over relegation-threatened Leicester, while William Hill had the 2011-12 Premier League-winning coach at 13/8 Friday.
“I am sorry for my friend Ranieri. He will remain in the history of Leicester City, in the heart of Leicester fans and all football lovers,” Mancini tweeted.
Mancini, who left Inter Milan last August, won the Premier League with City in 2012.
Former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson is second-favourite for the job, with Alan Pardew, Guus Hiddink, Neil Lennon, Frank de Boer and Gary Rowett the other leading contenders.
Ranieri is a hugely popular figure after leading 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester to the title last season, even though the team is now just a point and a place away from relegation.
In England, well-known commentators were quick to criticise Ranieri’s dismissal.
Former England captain Gary Lineker said in a BBC radio interview: “What he did last year was extraordinary.” “I think the lack of gratitude from the owners or whoever was involved in the decision beggars belief.
“You could explain it in some ways as a panic decision, and for me a wrong decision. It’s very sad,” he said.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who was sacked by Chelsea in December 2015, less than a year after winning the title, posted a message of support for Ranieri on Instagram.
“Champion of England and Fifa Manager of the Year. Sacked. That’s the new football, Claudio. Keep smiling AMICO (friend). Nobody can delete the history you wrote,” said Mourinho, whose last game in charge of Chelsea ended in defeat by Leicester.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher called the decision an “absolute joke”.
“I think a lot of people wouldn’t have wanted to see Leicester go down with Ranieri as the manager but I think a lot of that sympathy will go now,” he told Sky Sports.
“They were everyone’s second team but that’s well gone now ... I’m devastated for him. A lot of questions have got to be asked of the owners and of the players.
“I think they should have a statue of him there and I think they should start that in the morning.”
AS Roma coach Luciano Spalletti blasted Ranieri’s sacking as a “scandal” as the Italian press lambasted Leicester and the “ungrateful English”.
Leicester’s owners were “snakes”, “brutal”, “cruel”, British newspaper commentators said.
But Leicester insisted they had to act to save the club from the threat of an unprecedented relegation one year after winning the title. Relegation could cost Leicester more than 100 million pounds (Dh461 million).
“Claudio, appointed City manager in July 2015, led the Foxes to the greatest triumph in the club’s 133-year history last season, as we were crowned champions of England for the first time. His status as the most successful Leicester City manager of all time is without question,” said a club statement.
“However, domestic results in the current campaign have placed the club’s Premier League status under threat and the board reluctantly feels that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club’s greatest interest,” it added.
Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who bought the club seven years ago, went onto Instagram to defend his actions.
“We have done our best as a management,” he said in a statement before closing his account on the site. “We do not have only one problem to solve but there are a millions thing to do to make our club survive.”
Vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said ditching Ranieri had been the hardest decision the owners had made.
“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.”
But Leicester have won just five of their 25 league games this term and are yet to score a league goal in 2017, having also been knocked out of the FA Cup by third-tier Millwall. They lost 2-1 to Sevilla on Wednesday in their last-16 Champions League first leg tie.
Assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and Mike Stowell will take caretaker charge ahead of Monday’s match against Liverpool.