In Depth

Are Leicester players heroes or villains after Sevilla win?

Foxes rekindle spirit of last season with European triumph, but questions are asked about their attitude

Does Leicester's triumphant progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League prove the club was right to sack Claudio Ranieri last month, or does it serve as further evidence in the case against the players? 

Against Sevilla last night, the Leicester City that won the Premier League was on show, rather than the spineless outfit that looked like candidates for relegation earlier in the year.

But their sudden transformation under Craig Shakespeare raises many questions.

"Leicester's title defence has been mystifying at times, certainly under Claudio Ranieri, but their debut in the Champions League has continued the fairy tale. Their achievement cannot possibly be underestimated and comes a close second to last season's remarkable triumph," says the Daily Telegraph.

"To beat Sevilla, the three-time Europa League winners who had not conceded a goal away from home in this competition, cannot be sniffed at.

"Leicester's results deserve huge respect and, apart from the defeat in Porto and 45 minutes in the first leg against Sevilla, they have not looked out of place on European football's most glamorous stage."

Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star argues their progress to the last eight was the direct result of Ranieri's sacking.

"We will never know if the Foxes would have won their last three games had Ranieri still been in charge," he says. "It is doubtful to be honest, but what we do know is a rookie called Shakespeare is writing a brand new love story to make the tragic tale of Ranieri's demise feel like a thing of the past.

"Ranieri achieved remarkable things for Leicester and these will never, ever be forgotten," he adds. "But club bosses sacked him for good reason. The team wasn’t winning games and was hurtling towards relegation with performances that were unacceptable."

Leicester's "belief, energy and confidence" has returned under the new manager, continues Cross, who says: "Those who staggered around before like drunks at kicking out time now stand tall again," but also laments their role in Ranieri's downfall.

Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness was unimpressed with the Leicester players, reports the Daily Mirror, and claimed Ranieri lost his job because the players had become too big for their boots after last season's title win.

When performance levels dipped and Ranieri demanded more, they turned against him, added Souness, warning it could happen again: "Those players that are rejoicing out there think they're back, that they're big players," he told Irish TV. "They'll fall of their perch again - guaranteed - because they've done it once they'll do it again. They'll let you down again." 

One-time Leicester striker Emile Heskey appeared to agree, telling the Straits Times in Singapore the players had hidden behind Ranieri and that their return to form after his departure reflected badly on them.

"The players' image has tarnished a little bit," he said. "Because they've gone on to win three consecutive games. It makes them look in a sort of [bad] light."

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