Decision to sack Claudio Ranieri nine months after he led Leicester City to a historic title widely criticised.
Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is the bookmakers' favourite to replace compatriot Claudio Ranieri as Leicester City manager after the Italian was sacked by the Premier League champions on Thursday.
Mancini, who left Inter Milan last August, won the Premier League with City in 2012.
Former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson is second favourite for the job, with Alan Pardew, Guus Hiddink, Neil Lennon, Frank de Boer and Gary Rowett the other leading contenders.
The affable Ranieri is a hugely popular figure after leading 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester to the title last season, even though the team is currently just a point and a place above the relegation zone.
'Leicester City Football Club has tonight parted company with its first team manager, Claudio Ranieri,' the club said in a statement.
'Claudio, appointed City manager in July 2015, led the Foxes to the greatest triumph in the club's 133-year history last season, as we were crowned champions of England for the first time. His status as the most successful Leicester City manager of all time is without question,' it added.
'However, domestic results in the current campaign have placed the club’s Premier League status under threat and the board reluctantly feels that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club's greatest interest.'
The decision came 24 hours after the team put in a spirited performance in a 2-1 Champions League last 16 first-leg defeat at Sevilla with former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker leading a chorus of disapproval among the pundits.
'After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad,' Lineker said on Twitter.
Ranieri had come under pressure following Leicester's amazing title success, with the team battling relegation amid media reports suggesting he had lost the dressing room.
The club gave him 'unwavering support' in a statement two weeks ago, but Leicester suffered another low last weekend when they lost in the FA Cup fifth round at third-tier Millwall.
Leicester's disjointed performances have been a far cry from their relentless accumulation of points last year.
The Midlands club, who had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, clinched the title by 10 points with a brand of fast-paced, counter-attacking football that played to the strengths of their inexpensively assembled squad.
Yet Ranieri, who had never previously won a league title in an itinerant career that included spells at Juventus, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Monaco and Chelsea, has struggled to get the best from his players this season.
Having lost dynamic midfield enforcer N'Golo Kante to Chelsea, the likes of striker Jamie Vardy and playmaker Riyad Mahrez have misfired in a stuttering title defence.
Vardy, who got 24 league goals last term, has managed five in the current one, while a Leicester defence that conceded 36 on their way to the title have already shipped 43 in 25 games.
The club's current difficulties forced their Thai owners to act, according to vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.
"We are duty bound to put the club's long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be," Srivaddhanaprabha said.
"Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skilful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City."
"His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale. We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve," he added.
In England, well-known soccer pundits were quick to criticise his dismissal, with former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher calling it an "absolute joke".
'I think a lot of people wouldn't have wanted to see Leicester go down with Ranieri as the manager but I think a lot of that sympathy will go now,' Carragher told Sky Sports.
'They were everyone's second team but that's well gone now... I'm devastated for him. A lot of questions have got to be asked of the owners and of the players.'
'I think they should have a statue of him there and I think they should start that in the morning.'
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who was sacked by Chelsea in December 2015, less than a year after winning the title, posted a message of support for Ranieri on Instagram.
'Champion of England and FIFA Manager of the Year. Sacked. That's the new football, Claudio. Keep smiling AMICO (friend). Nobody can delete the history you wrote,' said Mourinho, whose last game in charge of Chelsea ended in defeat by soon-to-be champions Leicester.
Leicester is currently 17th in the table, a point and a place above the bottom three, having lost their past five league matches.
They are the only side in the top four English divisions without a league goal in 2017.