Leicester striker Jamie Vardy dismissed speculation that he was involved in manager Claudio Ranieri’s sacking. Vardy said that the rumours were untrue and “extremely hurtful”. On Thursday, Ranieri was sacked after leading the club to the Premier League title last year.

“Claudio has and always will have my complete respect,” Vardy said in a post on Instagram. “There is speculation I was involved in his dismissal and this is completely untrue, unfounded and is extremely hurtful. The only thing we are guilty of as a team is underachieving, which we all acknowledge both in the dressing room and publicly, and will do our best to rectify.”

Last season, Vardy scored 24 goals as the Foxes secured their first ever Premier League title, highly against the odds. However, the Englishman has been below par this season and recently ended a nine-game goal drought during Leicester’s 2-1 Champions League loss at Sevilla, which was also Ranieri’s last match in charge.

“He believed in me when many didn’t and for that I owe him my eternal gratitude,” Vardy added. “I wish Claudio the very, very best in whatever the future holds for him. Thank you Claudio for everything.”

Last season’s champions dropped into the relegation zone on Saturday following Crystal Palace’s win over Middlesbrough.