Then Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri gestures on the touchline during their European Champions League match against Sevilla on February 22 in Seville, Spain. Photo: CFP
Much has been made of Claudio Ranieri's dismissal as the manager of Leicester City. The Italian oversaw the team's dramatic rise from relegation candidates to champions of England and back to relegation candidates again in less than two seasons, and the board acted to remove him. The rights and wrongs of his sacking aside, was there an air of inevitability that it would end this way?
It is almost an immutable law that all managerial appointments end in casualty. That's the nature of soccer. With the exception of Arsene Wenger's two decades at the helm of Arsenal and Paul Tisdale, who has done half that at Exeter City, the next longest-serving managers in the English game are headed by Jim Bentley at Morecambe who has been in the job for just over five years. It's a cutthroat business where boards and fans demand success, whatever that may mean.
Because success - even in absolute terms, the unequivocal success of a Premier League title, say - is no guarantee of job security. Ranieri's departure fits with that of the four managers who preceded him in lifting the title, and the sacked, retired, expired, sacked, sacked narrative reads like a modern-day equivalent of the fates of Henry VIII's wives that's no less chilling for the managers keeping their heads as the board lost theirs.
Roberto Mancini - Manchester City - sacked
Won title: May 13, 2012
Sacked: May 13, 2013
Bobby Manc, as the Blues fans called him, won the most thrilling title race of recent memory when Sergio Ageuro's dramatic injury-time winner saw City pip their city rivals to the Premier League crown with the last kick of the season. The drama was not done there for the Italian though. He was relieved of his duties two days after losing the FA Cup final and a year to the day from his title triumph, having failed to retain the Premier League. That Mancini had allowed the championship to return to Old Trafford was not the final nail in his coffin, rather a lack of progress in the Champions League - they finished bottom of their group - that has come to be the focus of his board. Mancini ended up at Galatasaray and then a second spell at Inter Milan, which was cut short last summer. He has been strongly linked to Ranieri's old role at Leicester City.
Sir Alex Ferguson - Manchester United - retired
Won title: April 22, 2013
Retired: May 8, 2013*
*Stepped down at end of season on May 19
If anything proves the poisoned chalice theory then it is the man who was not sacked but walked away. Ferguson picked his own successor in David Moyes but "The Chosen One," as the banner in the Stretford End declared the younger Scotsman, inherited an aging team that didn't take to his methods and, much like Ranieri, was in turn gone nine months after a fairytale Premier League title - albeit one that was won against the odds by his predecessor. The role was clearly too big for the former Everton man and he was eventually replaced by Louis van Gaal, a manager whose ego could easily match the club he inherited, but he too struggled. The Dutchman managed the Old Trafford side for two seasons and, despite finishes of fourth and fifth improving on seventh under Moyes and an FA Cup win over Crystal Palace in last year's final - the club's first trophy in the post-Ferguson era, Van Gaal found himself sacked within days of that victory to be replaced by Jose Mourinho as the club look to move on from Ferguson.
Manuel Pellegrini - Manchester City - contract expired
Won title: May 11, 2014
Contract expired: June 30, 2016*
*Sacked in January 2016 and announced he would step down on June 30, 2016 for Pep Guardiola.
The likable Chilean lasted longer than everyone else who has won the Premier League in the last five seasons but in perhaps the most bizarre circumstances of all. He guided Manchester City to the title in May 2014 and was given the whole of the next season, where City finished second, before the club replaced him with Guardiola, the man they see as able to take them to the promised land of continental success. At the end of the January transfer window of the 2015-16 season, Guardiola's arrival was announced with Pellegrini to see out his contract until the summer, which was framed as a mutual decision between the manager and the club. Upon the end of his time in Manchester, Pellegrini popped up in another gritty northern town with a club trying to buy success - Hebei China Fortune in the Chinese Super League.
Jose Mourinho - Chelsea - sacked
Won title: May 3, 2015
Sacked: December 17, 2015
Trust Mourinho to have the most dramatic fall from grace. He was sacked just seven months after lifting the Premier League, which he won in his first season since returning to Stamford Bridge. There was no time for sentiment once he had lost the dressing room and ostracized members of his own backroom staff - notably the very public fallout with Eva Carneiro on the first day of the season. Roman Abrahamovic sided with the players and kicked Mourinho out following a December defeat to eventual champions Leicester, hiring Guus Hiddink to fill in until the summer - the 13th man to lead the team since Abrahamovic took ownership of Chelsea. The Portuguese is now at Manchester United while new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte looks set to win the Premier League in his debut season. Perhaps it's time for the Italian to start worrying about what lies ahead for him next season?
Claudio Ranieri - Leicester City - sacked
Won title: May 2, 2016
Sacked: February 23, 2017
Nine months was all Ranieri got after taking the 5,000-to-1 shots to Premier League success as relegation became a real worry. Whether the team stay up, who will take the reins and where Ranieri manages next all remain to be seen.