Roberto Mancini might be the favourite to replace Claudio Ranieri as Leicester manager, but the Italian insists he was sorry to see his compatriot sacked by the troubled Premier League champions.
Ranieri was brutally axed on Thursday, just nine months after leading 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester to their astonishing Premier League title triumph.
The Italian paid the price for a miserable run that left Leicester just one point above the relegation zone with 13 games remaining.
Leicester assistant manager Craig Shakespeare and Mike Stowell will take interim charge ahead of Monday’s crucial match against Liverpool.
But former Manchester City manager Mancini, who had a short spell as a player with Leicester in 2001, is the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Ranieri on a permanent basis.
Mancini is available to step into the Leicester job immediately after leaving Inter Milan last year, but on Friday he was quick to express sympathy for Ranieri’s sacking.
“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,” Mancini tweeted.
Mancini has Premier League pedigree having won the title with Manchester City in dramatic fashion back in 2012, but there would be doubts over his suitability for Leicester’s relegation scrap given his lack of experience with struggling teams.
Whoever takes over faces a huge struggle to lead Leicester away from the relegation dogfight with a group of players said to have grown mutinous due to Ranieri’s tactical tinkering.
The champions have not tasted victory in their last nine outings, since a 2-1 away win at Everton in the FA Cup on January 7, with their last league victory a 1-0 win over West Ham on December 31.
– Crisis –
Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha says the Foxes had much to sort out if they are to survive their predicament.
“We do not have only one problem to solve, but there are millions of things to do to make our club survive,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I would like to take this crisis situation to thank you all fans, and at the same time I do understand you.
“Please respect my decision. I will never let the club down. Seven years of my hard work here, I make the club better and better in every way.”
As well as Mancini, former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson, Alan Pardew, sacked by Crystal Palace in December, Dutch legend Frank de Boer and former Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink have all been linked with the post.
Roy Hodgson, out of work since his England exit after a miserable Euro 2016 campaign, may also be considered, along with David Wagner, the German coach earning rave reviews for his work with Championship promotion chasers Huddersfield.
Pearson was dismissed in June 2015 having guided Leicester to a relegation escape by winning seven of their last nine games to beat the drop.
His relationship with the owners broke down after a string of bizarre off-field antics and the sacking of his son James following the emergence of an explicit video in Bangkok during a 2015 tour.
But former Leicester striker Tony Cottee thinks his old club could turn to Pearson for a third time.
“Have they got someone lined up? Who’s going to step into a relegation fight?,” Cottee told Sky Sports News.
“Nigel (Pearson) did a fantastic job before Claudio took over and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to come back to the club.
“I think a lot of the problems with Nigel were related to off-field stuff as opposed to what he was doing as a football manager.”