Riyad Mahrez insists he and his Leicester team-mates did not let Claudio Ranieri down during his ill-fated final season at the club.
The Foxes parted company with the man who masterminded the only title-winning campaign in the club’s 133-year history just nine months into the defence.
A nine-game winless streak in all competitions in the run up to Ranieri’s dismissal led to accusations that the Leicester players had downed tools under the Italian.
Three consecutive post-Ranieri victories have only added fuel to that argument, but Mahrez is adamant recent criticism directed at his team-mates is unjustified.
“The players and the club know we didn’t let Ranieri down so whoever wants to speak can speak,” he told Sky Sports.
“The criticism doesn’t affect us. People speak because it is their job, they have to criticise. We are here to play and to win games.
“Criticism is good for the team, it keeps us strong and then we can fight with more power.
“We didn’t for six, seven months, now we have started. But that doesn’t mean everything is good, we’ve only won three games. We need to keep going because it’s not finished.”
Leicester’s revival under new boss Craig Shakespeare has been built on a return to the principles which sealed their unlikely title victory last term.
Chief to that upturn in form – which has seen the Foxes ease their relegation fears and reach the Champions League quarter-finals – has been Mahrez’s ability to rekindle the form which saw him scoop last season’s PFA Player of the Year award.
“I feel better, I’ve started scoring but that’s not the final thing. I need to keep going,” the Algerian added.
“When you win and are full of confidence you are flying but when it’s difficult and you are on a losing run, even if you don’t want it to it affects your head.
“But we stayed strong and now we are slowly coming back.
“The Sevilla game was special. We knew it would be a tough game but we put the intensity we needed to win the game.
“It is very good seeing Leicester in the quarter-finals. We will see if the quarter-finals are the end or if we keep going.
“I don’t think we can win it but the same was said about the Premier League. But the Champions League has huge, huge teams.”