Claudio Ranieri believes he may have been pushed out of his job at Leicester – but he is convinced it was not by his players.
Having guided the Foxes to their stunning Premier League title success last season, the Italian was controversially sacked in February.
Several of Ranieri’s key players did not perform as they had done in the previous campaign, but their form has improved dramatically since his departure.
New boss Craig Shakespeare – Ranieri’s former assistant – won his first six games in charge and only suffered defeat for the first time against Everton on Sunday, adding fuel to the stories that the players had forced Ranieri out.
But, speaking publicly for the first time since his sacking, Ranieri told Monday Night Football: “I don’t believe rumours the players spoke to the Leicester owners about sacking me.
“I don’t believe the players killed me. No, no, no!
“Maybe it could be someone behind me, but maybe the little problem I had before the title, maybe they push a little more when we lose this year.
“I don’t want to tell (who). I am a serious man, a loyal man. What I have to say, I say face-to-face.”
Ranieri believes Leicester’s upturn in fortunes actually started when they travelled to Sevilla in the Champions League.
They were beaten 2-1 in what turned out to be Ranieri’s last game in charge, but Jamie Vardy’s away goal helped the Foxes subsequently go through 3-2 on aggregate.
“I believed that sooner or later we would turn,” he added. “The turning point was the Sevilla match. In the second half everyone was together again, fighting, Jamie scoring.
“To go to Sevilla, the team who won the Europa League three times in a row, it’s not easy to go there and (only) lose 2-1, so when I was sacked it was a shock for me and for everyone.”