LONDON (AP) " Dignified and charming to the end, Claudio Ranieri broke his silence after his firing from Leicester by saying that winning the Premier League at the unfashionable club will make him "smile every day."
Ranieri, however, also said that his "dream died" when he was told by Leicester's board on Thursday he was no longer manager of the team he guided to the title at odds of 5,000-1 last season.
There was no anger in the 65-year-old Italian's first public words since his dismissal, just pride at his achievements and sadness that the fairytale success story was abruptly ending.
"After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always," Ranieri said. "Sadly this was not to be."
Ranieri said his adventure at Leicester would "live with me forever" and made an emotional tribute to the club's supporters.
"You took me into your hearts from day one and loved me. I love you too," Ranieri said. "No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.
"It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget.
It's been a pleasure and an honor to be a champion with you all."
Ranieri was fired with Leicester one point and one place above the relegation zone after 25 games of a woeful title defense.
"My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club," he said, "all the players, the staff, everybody who was there and was part of what we achieved."
The decision to fire Ranieri came with the club still having a realistic shot at reaching the Champions League quarterfinals, after losing the first leg away to Spanish side Sevilla 2-1 on Wednesday.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings