Leicester City caretaker boss Craig Shakespeare has denied a player revolt led to the sacking of Claudio Ranieri.
BBC Sport understands some players were summoned to meet the chairman after the 2-1 loss to Sevilla and Ranieri’s fate was sealed by the negative reaction.
The Italian was sacked by Leicester on Thursday nine months after leading the club to the Premier League title.
“There was a lot of frustration because of the results, but he had not lost the dressing room,” Shakespeare said.
“A lot of the talk of unrest has been speculation. I’ve not had one problem with the players.
“I always feel sorry when people lose their jobs. I’m not aware of the club having spoken to any candidates. My relationship with Claudio has been fine all along.
“I spoke to him last night and he thanked me for my support throughout. It was not brief and we exchanged views. A lot of what we said will stay private.”
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Leicester are 17th in the Premier League table, one point above the relegation zone, with 13 matches left and are out of the FA Cup after losing 1-0 to Millwall in the fifth round.
Despite losing 2-1 to Spanish side Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, they could yet reach the quarter-finals. The second leg is on 14 March.
Shakespeare, who will take charge of Monday’s home league match against Liverpool, said it was “very sad” Ranieri had been dismissed but added that the decision “must be respected”.
“Whether I think it’s right or not is irrelevant,” he added.
“We all know in football people lose their jobs because of results – and the results haven’t been good enough. He will get the utmost respect in terms of what he has achieved with this club.”
Leicester started last season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title, having almost been relegated the season before.
Former Leicester, Everton and England striker Gary Lineker described his hometown team’s achievement as “the biggest sporting shock of my lifetime”.
The remarkable title win saw Ranieri named best men’s coach at Fifa’s awards in January, and top coach at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards in December.
BBC Radio 5 live’s Pat Murphy:
The chairman and vice chairman had become increasingly concerned by the players’ alienation from Ranieri this season over a variety of issues.
Elimination from the FA Cup at Millwall and the flattering scoreline in Seville hardened the hearts of the influential members of the dressing room.
So Ranieri was sacked by Director of Football, Jon Rudkin, yesterday afternoon when they flew back to the Midlands.
The favourite to replace him is Roberto Mancini, but at the moment it’s understood he hasn’t been sounded out by Leicester, nor is he particularly interested.
Judging by Shakespeare’s assured performance at today’s press conference, he wouldn’t be fazed at the prospect of running the show for the final 13 matches of this season.
He was alongside Nigel Pearson two years ago when Leicester staged a remarkable escape from relegation. He’s a highly capable, experienced coach, very popular with influential figures in the dressing-room.
Shakespeare is clinging to the ‘it’s just about Monday v Liverpool’ mantra. but he seems at ease with any further challenges.
‘Brexit, Trump and Ranieri’ – reaction
Jose Mourinho wrote on Instagram on Thursday: “Champion of England and Fifa manager of the year, sacked. That’s the new football. Claudio, keep smiling. Nobody can delete the history you wrote.”
Speaking on Friday, the Manchester United boss described his post as “my little homage to somebody that wrote the most beautiful history in the Premier League”.
“He deserves to have Leicester’s stadium named after him,” the Portuguese added.
“It’s a decision that has everyone in football united and is very difficult to accept. I was sacked as a champion, a giant negative as I thought – but it’s peanuts compared to Claudio.”
Former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, the bookmakers’ early favourite to replace Ranieri, posted on social media: “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri. He will remain in the history of @LCFC, in the heart of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “Am I surprised that things like this can happen? No. It is not only football.
“For me there have been a few strange decisions in 2016-17. Brexit, Trump, Ranieri. I have no idea why Leicester did this. Everyone could see the situation in the league, the situation in the Champions League – which we are not in.
“He is a really special person in this business, a really nice guy. I met him before when he visited me at Dortmund and we had a nice talk. He is a wonderful person.”
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said: “I’m very sad, but this is our job. He is a friend, a good man and a good manager. He reached a dream to win the title. I am disappointed as a friend and a coach.”
And when asked about reports of the players having a role in Ranieri’s sacking, he added: “I don’t like to follow this type of story, it’s a lack of respect. If this happened, it means the club is poor, with no power. It’s not right that players can control your destiny as a manager.”
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said: “It’s inexplicable, there is no recognition. He was the one who created this chemistry in the team and the locker room that made it possible to win the championship.
“When you win a title ahead of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, if you have a little dignity, you even accept to be relegated without touching anything.
“It should be such a joy to have won that the following year you can accept to be relegated. It’s always us (managers) who leave. Have you ever seen a president, an official or a player sacked before the end of the season?”
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce said: “We understand as managers now that we are the whipping boys. I’m scratching my head, like everyone else is, asking myself how someone who delivered the finest achievement in football last year, could now be sacked. We’re talking about Leicester here.
“It’s harsh, the brutal world we work in today. A manager’s lifespan is probably now about a year. It’s baffling, and morally wrong.”
West Brom manager Tony Pulis: “You can’t take your eye of the ball at this level. You have to be relentless, because it’s such a difficult league. But I am really disappointed for him because he is a decent guy and I’m disappointed for the club in general too, they seemed so close and together like a family.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said:”I was shocked at Claudio Ranieri’s sacking. He’s real gentleman and a positive person. But it doesn’t taint Claudio’s story and he will always be remembered for that historic achievement.”
Sunderland manager David Moyes: “It’s a disappointing day for managers all round the world, I’m really sad for Claudio.
“It made me think how lucky I was to go 11 years at Everton and how few people get to do that.
“A lot of clubs often decide to sack the manager so it has an impact on the players. I’m hoping it doesn’t have an impact, and that it helps us- maybe they’re a little bit rudderless at the moment and it might actually help us.”
Eddie Jones, the manager of England’s rugby union team, said: “When we first got together one of the things we talked about was Leicester City and what they went through last season, what we could learn from it.
“I must admit I felt a bit sick last night hearing the news because he’s such a great, honourable guy and he’s done a fantastic job.”