Friday 22 September 2017

Claudio Ranieri cashed in & turned jeers to cheers before Leicester bubble burst

Claudio Ranieri has left Premier League champions Leicester despite their shock title win last season.
Claudio Ranieri has left Premier League champions Leicester despite their shock title win last season.

Claudio Ranieri once borrowed a pound from a stranger on the street to pay for his parking in Leicester.

After his 19 months at the Foxes, the 65-year-old earned that charity.

The Italian was sacked by Leicester on Thursday night just 297 days after winning the Premier League with the 5,000-1 shots.

One of the, if not the, biggest shocks in sport was masterminded by a man who was laughed at when he was appointed in July 2015 and made the favourite to be sacked that season.

But in less than a year he won the critics round and turned the Premier League on its head.

He shook hands with everyone at press conferences, took criticism with good grace and was enjoyable company.

He knows the game, knows how to work the media - although his dismissal at the King Power Stadium became inevitable as the Foxes slipped further into relegation trouble.

And last season's title win was the pinnacle of a managerial career which had always threatened to fall at the final hurdle.

His playing career never amounted to much, failing to make the grade at hometown club Roma as a defender before a six-year spell at Catanzaro and a couple of years each at Sicilian clubs Catania and Palermo.

As a manager Ranieri made his name with Cagliari - his third job after roles at non league Vigor Lamezia and Puteolana.

In 1988 he took over and won back-to-back promotions from Serie C1 to Serie A and he was named Napoli boss in 1991.

Although he was without Diego Maradona - serving a drugs ban - he introduced Gianfranco Zola, who he later managed at Chelsea.

There were no trophies at the Stadio San Paolo but he headed to Fiorentina and powered by the goals of Gabriel Batistuta won promotion back to Serie A at the first attempt.

His first two major trophies arrived in Florence, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italia in 1996, and a year later, he moved to Spain with Valencia.

He won the Copa del Rey in 1999 - in the same Seville stadium as his final game in charge of Leicester on Wednesday - and then got the Atletico Madrid job soon after.

He resigned in 2000 before they were relegated having gone into administration but Chelsea still appointed him in September that year.

He spoke little English and earned his 'Tinkerman' nickname given his rotation policy - something he has rightly pointed out since is now the norm in English football. It wasn't until his third season they qualified for the Champions League.

Ranieri had already signed Frank Lampard in 2001 and lost the 2002 FA Cup final to Arsenal but laid the foundations for the Blues' title-winning success under Jose Mourinho when R oman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

Claude Makelele, Joe Cole and Hernan Crespo all arrived as the Blues sparked a new era of wealth and foreign ownership.

Arsenal's Invincibles beat them to the 2004 Premier League title as Chelsea finished second with Ranieri's future an open secret, that he was going to be replaced by Mourinho. But he earned praise for his grace and poise prior to confirmation of the arrival of the Portuguese.

Ranieri returned to Valencia where he won the Super Cup but lasted less than a year before spell at Parma in 2007, where he saved them from relegation from Serie A.

That convinced Juventus to move for him after they had returned to the top flight but he still failed to win a top flight title as Mourinho's Inter Milan dominated.

Roma and Inter were next on the list but there was no silverware until a Ligue 2 title with Monaco in 2013, then they finished runners-up to PSG in the top flight the following season.

An ill-fated four months at Greece followed when Monaco opted not to renew his contract, before he was Nigel Pearson's shock replacement at Leicester in 2015.

Favourite to be sacked with one of the favourites to be relegated, he won a stunning title by 10 points. The Foxes lost just three league games all season.

Ever-quotable, he cried after April's win at Sunderland put them on the brink of the impossible, a sausage was named after him by a Leicester butchers and when the title was confirmed he was with his mother Renata in Italy.

Then, this season, it all fell apart. Poor recruitment, baffling tactical decisions and an unsettled dressing room made his departure almost inevitable, with Leicester a point above the relegation zone.

It proved there is no room for sentiment in football and for Ranieri - FIFA's reigning Coach of the Year - there was no romantic ending.

Press Association

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