Claudio Ranieri has been sacked by Watford after their loss to relegation rivals Norwich City left them in the Premier League's drop zone. 

Watford went down 3-0 at home to Norwich on Friday, extending their winless run in all competitions to nine games – their worst such stretch since December 2013. 

It proved to be the final straw, with Ranieri having only claimed seven points from a possible 39 since taking over from Xisco Munoz in October. 

He became Watford's 15th manager since Giampaolo Pozzo bought the club in June 2012 and leaves without having much of an impact.

The club released a statement confirming the news on Monday.

Watford praised the "integrity" of the 70-year-old, but explained they felt a change was required to give Ranieri's replacement enough time in their fight against relegation.

"Watford Football Club confirms the departure of head coach Claudio Ranieri," it read.

"The Hornets' board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity.

"However the board feels that, with nearly half of the Premier League campaign remaining, a change in the head coach position now will give a new appointment sufficient time to work with a talented squad to achieve the immediate goal of retaining Premier League status.

"No further club comment will be made until this new appointment is confirmed in due course."

Watford will hope to end a run of 30 Premier League games without a clean sheet when they travel to Burnley on February 5. 

Claudio Ranieri has been sacked by Watford after their loss to relegation rivals Norwich City left them in the Premier League's drop zone. 

Watford went down 3-0 at home to Norwich on Friday, extending their winless run in all competitions to nine games – their worst such stretch since December 2013. 

It proved to be the final straw, with Ranieri having only claimed seven points from a possible 39 since taking over from Xisco Munoz in October. 

He became Watford's 15th manager since Giampaolo Pozzo bought the club in June 2012 and leaves without having much of an impact.

The club released a statement confirming the news on Monday.

Watford praised the "integrity" of the 70-year-old, but explained they felt a change was required to give Ranieri's replacement enough time in their fight against relegation.

"Watford Football Club confirms the departure of head coach Claudio Ranieri," it read.

"The Hornets' board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity.

"However the board feels that, with nearly half of the Premier League campaign remaining, a change in the head coach position now will give a new appointment sufficient time to work with a talented squad to achieve the immediate goal of retaining Premier League status.

"No further club comment will be made until this new appointment is confirmed in due course."

Watford will hope to end a run of 30 Premier League games without a clean sheet when they travel to Burnley on February 5. 

Manchester City picked up from where they left off in 2021 by battling to a late 2-1 win over Arsenal, extending their lead at the Premier League summit.

A Riyad Mahrez penalty and a last-gasp strike from Rodri cancelled out Bukayo Saka's first-half opener after Gabriel Magalhaes received a needless red card for the Gunners in an action-packed game – the first top-flight match of 2022.

City's 11th league win in a row means they end New Year's Day with an 11-point advantage at the top, a tally bettered by only two clubs in the competition's history on January 1 – Manchester United in 1993-94 and City themselves in 2017-18 (both 12 points).

There were also victories for Tottenham and West Ham, the London pair seeing off Watford and Crystal Palace respectively to remain in firm contention for a top-four finish.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of Opta data from Saturday's action. 

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City: Leaders recover to stretch winning run against Gunners

Saka's opening goal against City was only the second the Citizens have conceded in the first half of a Premier League game this season, and the first such goal they have shipped on their travels since May.

That was the England international's sixth league goal of the season and was the 36th goal scored by a player aged 21 or under for Arsenal in the English top flight since Mikel Arteta's first game on Boxing Day 2019 – eight more than any other team.

Mahrez converted a contentiously awarded penalty shortly before the hour mark at Emirates Stadium, the Algeria international scoring for a fifth game running in all competitions, and Gabriel's second yellow card – 78 seconds after his first – swung the game in City's favour.

That was Arsenal's 100th red card in the Premier League era, making them the first side to reach that milestone, with Everton (99), Newcastle United (90) and Chelsea (82) next on the list.

Rodri completed the turnaround with City's latest winning goal in a league game since May 2018 (92:28) as the Citizens made it 10 successive top-flight victories over the Gunners, an opponent Pep Guardiola has yet to lose against in the league in 12 encounters.

Watford 0-1 Tottenham: Sanchez stings Hornets in late Spurs win

Tottenham also left it late to overcome Watford and make it eight Premier League games without defeat under Antonio Conte, extending the longest unbeaten start by a Spurs boss in league competition.

Davinson Sanchez made the breakthrough with 95 minutes and 45 seconds played, with that the latest winning goal Spurs have scored in the top flight since Opta started recording such data from 2006-07.

Watford dug deep but could not quite hold on for a valuable point, meaning they have now lost more Premier League matches (nine) since Claudio Ranieri took charge in October than any other side in the division.

Sanchez's goal was his second in five Premier League matches for Spurs, which is more than he had netted in his first 108 in the competition (one), with the defender heading in from a Son Heung-min free-kick.

Watford boss Ranieri has now lost each of his last five Premier League games against Italian managers, whereas compatriot Conte has never lost against a fellow Italian in the competition in six meetings, winning all but one of those.

Crystal Palace 2-3 West Ham: Hammers survive Olise-inspired scare

Palace fell just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback as they lost a home league match on New Year's Day for the first time in their history, with this their 14th such match.

Michail Antonio's close-range finish and a Manuel Lanzini double gave West Ham a commanding three-goal lead, the latter having now scored 52 per cent of his 25 Premier League goals in London derbies (13) – the highest percentage of any player to have scored at least 20 times in the competition.

Michael Olise made a huge difference from the bench by setting up Odsonne Edouard and then scoring a second for Palace late on, making him the first Eagles player to score and assist as a substitute in the Premier League.

But the visitors held on to ensure boss David Moyes made it six straight away league wins against Palace as a manager, defeating a different coach on each occasion during that perfect run (Alan Smith, Iain Dowie, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson and now Patrick Vieira).

Antonio Conte insisted Tottenham have room for improvement if they are to enjoy future success after his side edged past Watford.

Spurs have yet to lose in eight Premier League games under Conte, extending the longest unbeaten start by a Tottenham manager in league competition.

It seemed for large parts on Saturday that Spurs would have to settle for consecutive draws as Daniel Bachmann repeatedly thwarted the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min at Vicarage Road.

However, Davinson Sanchez headed home Spurs' latest ever winning Premier League goal since Opta began recording data (95:45) as he rose the highest to seal all three points for the visitors in a 1-0 win.

Victory over Claudio Ranieri's struggling side moves Spurs within two points of fourth-placed Arsenal, who have played two games more, but Conte still wants more from his side.

He told Sky Sports: "It is important to get three points. We know we have to suffer to get points. We are building a team to try to be competitive in the future but we know we have to be competitive in this season too.

"It is important to be humble, to fight and to suffer. I think everything can improve.

"It was difficult because we didn't score but created chances and when you find an opponent who is well organised it is not simple.

"But when you score the game changes and you find spaces to attack. I am happy with the commitment and effort from the players. We were a bit tired but I wish the world to my friend Claudio Ranieri the best because [Watford] deserve something."

Conte has never lost a Premier League match against an Italian manager (W5 D1), with three wins to his name against Ranieri.

The former Inter head coach expressed his satisfaction with the performance of his side as he commented on how difficult the busy festive period has been.

He added to BBC's Match of the Day: "To play so many games in a few days is not easy. This was the fifth game in 13 days and if you think we played almost with the same players, this period is busy but at the same time we try to get a result because it is very important, three points is very important.

"We have to improve the last pass, in the first half it was 29 crosses and no goals, it is important for us to improve the quality in the last pass because that gives you the possibility to score."

Before the Watford clash, Conte called for patience as he warned Champions League football will not be sealed with a couple of months of work and one transfer window.

But Conte feels the best way for Spurs to succeed in January is to keep playing the way they are doing, as opposed to focusing on various needs in the transfer market.

"Honestly, when Tottenham put me in charge, I asked for time to make my evaluation about the squad, now I did and for sure we will have a meeting with the club," he continued.

"It is important always to be honest, to understand where we are at in this moment, which is our point of start and then I will see. January is not simple, but maybe we will see what happens.

"We have to continue to work in this way and these players are giving me everything, great commitment and trust – the best buy in January is to continue this way. Then we will see what are our intentions are."

Antonio Conte warned Tottenham cannot expect Champions League football to be sealed with just a couple of months of work and one transfer window.

Spurs have been revitalised since Conte's arrival as the former Inter head coach became the first manager in the club's history to remain unbeaten through his first seven league games in charge.

That unbeaten streak leaves Spurs in seventh, just five points behind fourth-placed north London rivals Arsenal, though Conte's side boast two games in hand over the Gunners.

However, Conte attempted to quash the expectations on his team as he warned that Spurs' recent form, or possible transfer activity in January, does not guarantee Champions League qualification.

"Honestly, and I have been in football for many years, you get into the Champions League after years, not two or three months and one transfer window," Conte told reporters on Friday. 

"There are other teams that are doing important things and this will be very difficult. It means that someone else must fail for there to be a place. [There are] four big teams that are favourites as well as other teams. 

"[It does not take] only one transfer market and it's a switch, football is complicated and it's not just about money. 

"I am here to build something, but I know it will be difficult. Everyone asks about the Champions League, but I want to be honest with everybody, we must build something.

"But we need time and patience. I am sure after my first two months."

Conte reiterated that patience was needed ahead of the transfer window as he referenced numerous planning meetings with the Spurs board as they look to develop their squad in January.

Spurs face Watford next on Saturday as they aim to extend their seven-game unbeaten streak and make up further ground in their chase of the top four.

Conte will go up against his veteran compatriot Claudio Ranieri, whom he expressed admiration for, though he urged Spurs to respond to their poor performance in the 1-1 draw with Southampton.

"Claudio is an important manager who has shown that in his career, many experiences in many countries, which shows he is an important manager with great experience," he added.

"I have great respect for him and our families are friends, he did something wonderful with Leicester [City].

"We missed a chance in the last game to get three points, we were a bit unlucky but at the same time we can do much better when we had superiority. We need to ask more of ourselves, only in this way we can improve our level and increase the level of the team."

Claudio Ranieri dismissed claims that Watford have disrespected the African Cup of Nations after Emmanuel Dennis was omitted from the Nigeria squad.

Dennis was added to Nigeria's squad in December after initially being left off a 37-man list submitted by former coach Gernot Rohr for the tournament.

That list, though, changed again on Friday as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) released a statement confirming Dennis had been excused from participating as his club side Watford are "baring fangs".

Ranieri previously stated on Wednesday that Dennis' late call-up was in the Premier League's hands, but has responded to Nigeria's claims by insisting his side have done no wrong.

Asked whether Watford had disrespected AFCON, Ranieri said: "No. They have a lot of players and they changed the manager.

"We were ready. We know we were ready to give them players, but they didn't do this.

"The two boards spoke and then for me it is okay. I am only the manager, only the coach, and I accept everything. Now I speak with [Dennis], but of course he wanted to go and play. But also he wants to help Watford.

"I accept the decision of the board and the Nigeria team. We respect everybody. I knew they were speaking, the [Watford] board and the Nigeria board. I accept every decision they find. For me, it is finished."

The news of Dennis' omission will please Watford supporters, given the forward has either scored or assisted 59 per cent of Watford's 22 league goals this campaign.

In fact, only Mohamed Salah (24) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than Dennis (13 – eight goals, five assists).

Nigeria will also be without Napoli forward Victor Osimhen who was not named in Augustine Eguavoen's squad.

Osimhen suffered a series of facial injuries following a clash of heads with Inter defender Milan Skriniar before the striker tested positive for COVID-19, which subsequently rules him out of the tournament due to travel complications.

The competition gets underway on January 9, with Nigeria opening their campaign against Salah's Egypt two days later.

Liverpool suffered a major blow to their title hopes when they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman scored, netting in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career, having grabbed a goal in the 6-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.

The former Everton player's contribution, after a rare penalty miss from Mohamed Salah, means City's lead in the title race stands at six points at the halfway stage in the season.

West Ham and Crystal Palace also won on Tuesday, while Southampton battled for a point against Tottenham.

After a big result in the context of the title race, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of Tuesday's Opta data.

Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Salah miss hurts as ex-Everton man Lookman sinks Reds

After converting 15 consecutive Premier League penalties, Salah missed at Leicester, and it was that kind of frustrating game for Liverpool.

It was just Salah's second ever miss from the spot in the English top flight and his first since October 2017 against Huddersfield Town. From then on, he had been immaculate, so when Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a save at the King Power Stadium it was a major surprise. Having said that, since the start of 2020, Schmeichel has saved more penalties in the Premier League than any other goalkeeper, with the latest stop his third in this period.

The result was also a major turn up, Leicester winning consecutive league matches against Liverpool for the first time since April 1999, thanks to Lookman's second-half strike.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games and for the first time in 28 away fixtures across all competitions, as Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated a big win against one of his former clubs.

The Reds had been unbeaten in 35 December games since a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in 2016, but their year ends on a negative note.

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham: Kane scores again but Spurs denied a winner

Tottenham's Harry Kane has made a habit of getting the better of Southampton's defence during his stellar career, but this time he had to settle for a penalty equaliser at St Mary's Stadium. By firing past Fraser Forster to level up after James Ward-Prowse's opener, Kane ensured Antonio Conte became the first Tottenham manager to go unbeaten in the first seven league games of a Spurs career.

Kane has now been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League starts against Southampton (11 goals, six assists), and he was only denied a winner by a controversial VAR offside call.

A fine early strike from Ward-Prowse gave the Saints midfielder a goal for a third successive game. The last time he scored in three straight matches was back in March 2019, and the third goal in that run also came against Spurs.

Perhaps Southampton fans were not expecting their team to hold on. After all, the last time they won their final game of a calendar year was all the way back in 2010, when they beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 in a League One fixture.

The dismissal of Mohammed Salisu, who fouled Son Heung-min to give away the penalty that Kane tucked away, certainly hurt Southampton. Indeed, since Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first Premier League game in charge of Southampton in December 2018, only Arsenal (13) have been shown more red cards in the competition than Saints (11).

Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich: No Zaha, no Gallagher, no problem for Eagles

Wilfried Zaha was suspended and Conor Gallagher was also absent, but Palace were three goals to the good by half-time against bottom side Norwich.

It was Odsonne Edouard who stepped up to shine, scoring the home side's opening goal from the penalty spot before claiming assists as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp boosted the lead.

His three goal involvements followed the former Celtic striker having just four (three goals, one assist) across his previous 15 games in the Premier League.

Palace finished the day in 10th place and have impressed many under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira, losing just once and scoring 18 goals in their 10 Premier League home games since the Frenchman came in, taking 17 points from those fixtures.

This was just Palace's fourth win in their last 25 games without star man Zaha (D3, L18), but they have not lost in their last five when he has been absent.

Norwich have conceded a league-high six penalties this season and have only scored eight goals in 19 games – the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after as many matches, alongside Leicester in 1977-78.

Watford 1-4 West Ham: Worrying times for Ranieri

Despite impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United early in Claudio Ranieri's reign, the Italian's Watford team are in trouble now after a fifth consecutive defeat.

An early opener here from Emmanuel Dennis was a red herring. Watford were mauled as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic scored for the Hammers.

The result means West Ham won 22 Premier League games in 2021, and only in 1959 (23) have they enjoyed more top-flight league wins in a calendar year.

West Ham have also clawed back 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side.

Captain Noble netted the Hammers' third from the penalty spot, his first Premier League goal for 706 days since he scored in January 2020 against Leicester.

It was Noble's fifth successful penalty against Watford in the competition, with only the Premier League's record scorer Alan Shearer having put away more spot-kicks against a team in the competition, netting seven against Everton.

Pep Guardiola warned Manchester City "must be careful" against Watford as the Spaniard hailed the career of Hornets manager Claudio Ranieri.

City are a point behind leaders Chelsea after 14 games following the 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa on Wednesday, while Thomas Tuchel's side edged past the champions' next opponents.

Ranieri's side crushed Manchester United 4-1 at home in late November, though, and Guardiola insisted his side must be cautious against the strugglers despite winning their last six games across all competitions.

"I know what [Watford] want to do, and what they do, they do really well," Guardiola told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"Against United they played well, against Chelsea they did a really good game. They are close results. 

"Against Leicester they lost but had more chances. Every game is there. We have to be careful tomorrow and do another good performance."

Guardiola, who has won all nine meetings with Watford across all competitions by an aggregate score of 39-3, also hailed his opposite number Ranieri for his work in football.

"Football has to be grateful to still live with important people like Claudio Ranieri," he added. "What he has done in his career is amazing, Leicester is the benchmark. 

"[He's worked] in Spain, Italy, France – I admire this type of person. What they have done, have the passion, energy to go there. 

"When they lost against Liverpool, the press conference after…the confidence he showed, I would be depressed. The first game to lose the way I lose and go there [to say], 'Follow me, we are going to win'. 

"I admire a lot still they have this passion, this energy. It will be a pleasure to see him again, I know the results against him always aren't good."

Rodri, along with Bernardo Silva – who has four goals in his last seven league games, as many as his previous 55 in the competition – has been a standout performer for City.

The former Barcelona head coach, whose side have won more Premier League away games (72) than any other side since his first season in charge, noted the Spain international's performances as he again credited Silva.

Asked about Silva's recent showings after he claimed the Portugal international was a class above, Guardiola said: "Take a video in Anfield, in Stamford Bridge, in the last game. You will know it.

"It's no secret. We have no top scorer upfront who creates something out of nothing. We have to do it as a team, it's good everyone is involved and has the permission to score goals. I never said in my career, 'Don't score a goal.' They have the feeling to go and try.

"Rodri is 23, 24. Everything is a process. Last season he played good, maybe the last part of the season drop a little bit but we gave him more minutes last season. You have to be careful this season. 

"The fact we are out of the EFL Cup is good for that. He is playing at an extraordinary level, the consistency. 

"He has to be [number] seven or an eight [in terms of position] all the time, he cannot be three or four because it destroys the team, he cannot be 10 because 10 is for the strikers. He is playing consistently, defensively, offensively."

Mikel Arteta described his players as "the most honest" after Claudio Ranieri accused them of a lack of respect following Arsenal's 1-0 win over Watford at Emirates Stadium.

The Watford head coach was unhappy that Arsenal did not give the ball back after it had been put out for an injury in the move that led to Emile Smith Rowe's decisive goal.

The result extended the Gunners' unbeaten run to 10 games across all competitions and marked Arteta's 100th game as Arsenal boss with a win.

Arteta issued a staunch defence of his squad's conduct, revealing that, if anything, he feels his side can occasionally be too honest.

"If I have to define my players, my team and my club, I would say that they are the most honest - all of them," Arteta said. "At some stages, we can even become naive.

"But still, if [Ranieri] feels like that towards our club, our team, I have to apologise if that's the case but, for sure that was not the intention to take any advantage."


Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed his second consecutive Premier League penalty, having missed only two of his first 11 in the competition, but Arteta still retains confidence in his skipper's ability from the spot.

"[Aubameyang] will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so," Arteta continued. "You will miss if you take penalties, that is part of your career and the job."

Smith Rowe's second-half strike earned Arsenal the three points, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles - starting in midfield in the absence of the injured Thomas Partey - put in an impressive performance as Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.

The 24-year-old was strongly linked with an exit in the most recent transfer window, even posting a message on social media indicating his desire to leave in search of regular minutes.

However, the Englishman was retained and Arteta is glad to have kept hold of the versatile Hale End graduate, saying he has seen a great deal of improvement from Maitland-Niles.

"First of all, I see a different player in terms of [Maitland-Niles'] urgency, his commitment, clarity in his play, his purpose," Arteta said. "We made a decision. I was clear, with what I was seeing, that I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.

"He has a huge talent which is that he is versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch. When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, when I see the questions he's asking, his level of attention - everything you talk through, his response is immediate.

"He's a really clever boy, a really intelligent boy and I think he has come a long way."

Liverpool romped to a convincing 5-0 win over Watford at Vicarage Road with Roberto Firmino netting a hat-trick as the Hornets produced a hapless showing in Claudio Ranieri's first game in charge.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring with his 100th Premier League goal, calmly finishing first-time into the bottom corner from Mohamed Salah's lovely ball in behind.

Firmino profited from poor Watford defending to find the net either side of half-time, tapping in from James Milner's pass after the home defence had been carved open, before pouncing on a loose ball from a badly defended cross.

Salah then scored a sensational solo goal, making a mockery of three defenders' attempts to win the ball from him before curling emphatically into the far corner, while Firmino struck again in stoppage-time to compound the hosts' misery.

Watford have appointed Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri as their new head coach.

Ranieri has signed a two-year deal at Vicarage Road following the departure of Xisco Munoz, who became the first Premier League managerial sacking of the season on Sunday.

Under Munoz, the Hornets won their first game on their top-flight return against Aston Villa but only managed to pick up four points from the next six games to leave them in 15th.

However, new appointment Ranieri is no stranger to English football having enjoyed spells with Chelsea and Fulham, while overseeing the most unlikely of title-winning terms with Leicester City.

The Foxes secured the title in 2015-16, led by the likes of Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy as they lost just three times all season under the Italian's stewardship.

Despite the triumph, Leicester and Ranieri parted ways the following season with the defending champions just a point above the relegation zone with 13 games left to play.

He then returned to take charge of Fulham in 2018, via a stop at Nantes, but was sacked after just 106 days in charge, with the Cottagers heading for an imminent relegation from the Premier League.

The former Chelsea manager's most recent job was with Sampdoria, but he departed in the close-season after a two-year spell with the club, having initially taken charge in 2019.

Watford, who have now hired six and fired five different permanent head coaches since Marco Silva's departure in January 2018, become Ranieri's 21st club in his 35-year career.

He will be joined by assistant coaches Paolo Benetti and Carlo Cornacchia, as well as fitness coach Carlo Spignoli, as he prepares for the difficult task of the unbeaten Liverpool in his first game on October 16.

Claudio Ranieri sneered at the prospect of a Super League as Italy's football coaches association boss Renzo Ulivieri called for Juventus, Milan and Inter to be thrown out of Serie A.

Ranieri used Leicester City's against-the-odds 2015-16 Premier League title march and subsequent involvement in the Champions League as an example of an underdog having its day.

He was manager of the Foxes as they rose to that unexpected prominence, and it is something he fears would be impossible under the new proposals, with the Champions League being seemingly imperilled by such a rival competition and the biggest clubs set to see their incomes soar.

The Premier League 'big six' have confirmed their readiness to compete in the new Super League, along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Italian giants Juve, Milan and Inter. They would then be permanent members of the big-money competition, guaranteed huge annual payouts, but also plan to keep playing in their domestic leagues.

A backlash has followed Sunday's announcement, with concerns expressed by supporters, leagues, national associations, leading politicians, and even some players and coaches from clubs involved.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola expressed reservations on Tuesday, although the Premier League title race front-runners have said they will enter.

Ulivieri, president of the Associazione Italiana Allenatori Calcio, told Rai Radio 1: "It is a dirty trick against the football system, even at the lower levels, designed to solve teams that have done everything wrong in the management of the clubs.

"This is a serious blow to the national championships. Juventus, Inter and Milan cannot continue to stay in Serie A.

"Juve have won many championships because they organised themselves better, because they spent more money but also because they made a lot of debts."

Ranieri, now coach of Sampdoria, said: "Reading what some European clubs want to do, the first thing that comes to my memory is precisely the feat accomplished by Leicester.

"Regardless of the fact that I was involved too, it was a result obtained by the smallest who managed to compete with the great giants of the football world. In my opinion this spirit represents the essence of sport."

Former Chelsea boss Ranieri added, according to La Gazzetta Dello Sport: "What they are trying to do is wrong. Maybe they are doing this to cover all the debts they have.

"I hope that FIFA and UEFA have the tools to combat this big, bad thing."

Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri insists Fabio Quagliarella did not feature against Inter for tactical reasons, despite reports linking the striker with a stunning return to Juventus. 

Quagliarella previously spent four years with Juve, initially joining on loan before making his switch permanent, and won the Serie A title for three successive seasons under Antonio Conte. 

The 37-year-old is rumoured to be a potential target for the reigning champions as they look to strengthen their forward options for the second half of the 2020-21 campaign. 

Ranieri kept the veteran frontman on the bench for the entirety of Wednesday's 2-1 home win over Inter, yet insisted afterwards it had nothing to do with speculation over the player's future at the club.

"The fact that he did not enter has nothing to do with the transfer market, it was a technical choice," Ranieri explained to Sky Sport Italia. 

The evergreen Quagliarella has scored seven goals in 14 Serie A appearances this season for Samp, boasting a conversion rate of 25 per cent.  

Cristiano Ronaldo is the competition's top scorer but Juve want to provide support for the Portuguese.

They have also been linked with another experienced forward in Olivier Giroud, who could be on the move in the January window due to a lack of playing time at Chelsea. 

"We could use him," Juve head coach Andrea Pirlo told DAZN after a 4-1 win over Udinese at the weekend. "But these are things that [Juventus sporting director Fabio] Paratici knows better than me.  

"We talked about it but let's see if we will do something in the next few days." 

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