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Opinion: Leicester Display Proves Players’ Mistreatment Of Claudio Ranieri

Tonight, Leicester were vibrant. They fought for 50/50s, pressed high and looked strong on the counter. It was a changed team, as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders.

So did the tactical master that is Craig Shakespeare outwit Liverpool? Did he inspire the players by renouncing his namesake’s famous “Once more into the breach” speech? No, and probably not.

This was not a new Leicester, it was the old Leicester. They looked like the champions they were last season, full of energy, clinical and confident. Liverpool were far from brilliant, but Leicester were absolutely fantastic.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Daniel Drinkwater of Leicester City celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on February 27, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

To suggest then, that this was because of the departure of Ranieri would be ludicrous. They were no different to the team he guided to the title last season.

Of course, the Leicester players will argue they just played well, Ranieri had not lost the dressing room. Some will try and say it just happened to be a good day for a team that is where it should be, in and around the bottom of the table.

But there’s just no way that’s the case.

Leicester have had moments of mediocrity this season that you could not attribute to a lack of spirit. Their early season performances seemed to be that of a team that just got it wrong, the defeats at Hull and United seeming to be clear examples.

It all changed as the New Year rolled in though.

Leicester forgot they were nothing special without Kante. They looked at their mid-table spot and couldn’t believe it. Of course, they would still produce the odd spectacular performance but were never going to be champions.

The players couldn’t process that however, and decided that they had had enough of the ‘Tinkerman’. It serves him right too. He took chicken burgers off the menu.

And that’s probably why they’re performing for stand-in Shakespeare. Perhaps he promised to re-introduce them. The fact is, no credit should really be given to him.

OK, his Leicester side were superb. They looked like champions again but they looked like Ranieri’s champions.

Had the Italian still been at the club, it would have been a moment to savour for football fans. To see our favourite underdogs returning to form. Of course, Leicester fans enjoyed the performance, but for once I have to agree with Robbie Savage, when he said “It’s actually quite uncomfortable watching this.”

And it’s uncomfortable because a man that drove the 5000/1, least likely team to win the title to that very prize has quite clearly been driven out by the players who should be thanking him daily for what he did.

If you watch some of their recent displays, it all becomes clear they weren’t trying. Take their dreadful defeat at Swansea the other day or their limp attempt to overcome League Cup winners Manchester United.

But when it came to the Champions League, the one that mattered, they couldn’t help but fight for it.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates after scoring his second and his sides third goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on February 27, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Proof then, that they didn’t care about Ranieri anymore. Quite simply down to their arrogance, they blamed it on the coach, who was probably toughening things up given their patchy form.

It shows the impact of player-power, which is becoming a major factor in football. Indeed, you have the opposite at Arsenal, where top players are threatening to leave if Arsene Wenger calls it a day at the end of this season.

It leaves a bitter taste. Ranieri was a charming, funny and charismatic manager of a team everyone previously loved.

The harsh reality is though, the players were in charge. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps they gained that power through their unlikely success

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