Leicester’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri nine months after he won the Premier League is “unforgivable”, says former Foxes striker Gary Lineker.
Ranieri took the Foxes to the title in 2015-16 despite them being rated 5,000-1 shots at the start of that campaign.
Leicester are 17th this season and lost to League One Millwall in the FA Cup.
Match of the Day presenter Lineker, who played for his hometown club for seven seasons, added that the Italian’s dismissal shows the “game’s gone”.
“After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad,” the 56-year-old posted on social media.
Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, speaking on BT Sport, said: “I wasn’t that surprised, but am disappointed. He has done an amazing job.
“When teams are down there now, with what’s at stake, owners do make those changes and panic. I’m sad to see it. He can walk away and hold his head high.”
Ex-England striker and Match of the Day pundit Ian Wright said the Leicester players may feel they are responsible for Ranieri’s dismissal.
“Unfortunate news,” Wright said on social media. “I wonder how I’d feel if I was a Leicester player right now? Could I have done more? At least Claudio left them as champions.”
Former Wales striker and Match of the Day pundit John Hartson said: “Very hasty and very harsh. The owner/board are obviously having a major panic and feel a change in a relegation battle is needed.
“Will the sacking of Claudio Ranieri seem so mad if Leicester appoint a manager who keeps them in the Premier League?”
Former England striker Michael Owen said the sacking was a “total and utter disgrace”. He added: “I’ve lost a lot of love for the beautiful game today. The players and fans of Leicester have been massively let down.”
What did Leicester say?
On 7 February, Leicester issued a statement saying Ranieri had their “unwavering support”. Sixteen days later they sacked the 65-year-old Italian, who had signed a new four-year deal in the summer.
His departure came a day after the Foxes won praise for their performance despite losing 2-1 in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Sevilla.
“Ranieri was told he was sacked on Thursday afternoon in Leicester once the team returned from Spain, but the suggestion is the owners decided before that defeat by Sevilla,” said BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
“The decision was taken very reluctantly but the club’s owners are desperate to avoid relegation and its consequences.”
Foxes vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said: “This has been the most difficult decision we have had to make in nearly seven years since King Power took ownership of Leicester City.
“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.”
Srivaddhanaprabha added: “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.”
A news conference with Leicester assistant manager Craig Shakespeare will take place at 13:00 GMT on Friday.