Monday 18 December 2017

Money men ripping the soul out of sport

Weird Wide World of Sport

Claudio Ranieri on the sideline during his final game in charge of Leicester City against Sevilla
Claudio Ranieri on the sideline during his final game in charge of Leicester City against Sevilla

Dave Devereux

It has been a particularly peculiar week in the weird, wide world of sport.

We've had to digest the news that a portly goalkeeper was relieved of his duties after scoffing down a princely pie, we've witnessed the sad sight of a likeable manager picking up his P45 a matter of months after leading 5000/1 outsiders Leicester City to the Promised Land ,and we've shrugged our shoulders as predictably the top brass of the G.A.A. have distanced themselves even further from the club players with their 'Super 8' money-spinner.

Despite all of these bombshells, probably the strangest thing for me personally was that for the first time in my life I found myself nodding my head in agreement when Jose Mourinho opened his mouth.

It was nice to see him speaking out in support of Claudio Ranieri, although maybe wearing a top with the initials CR emblazoned on it to show solidarity with the beleaguered former Foxes boss was a bit much; he hasn't died, he's just been shown the door with a nice big compensation cheque in his arse pocket.

That said, the decision of billionaire Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to axe Ranieri when the celebrations of last season's unlikely success have barely died down shows just how cut-throat the football business has become.

Clubs need the filthy lucre of the Premier League and its television money, and you just have to look at some of the sides wallowing in the dank depths of the lower leagues to see how difficult it can be to regain a seat at the top table after heading south.

Mourinho is well positioned to voice his empathy for Ranieri, given he found himself in the same situation little more than a year ago when everything went pear-shaped a matter of months after he had guided Chelsea to the Premier League title in his second spell at the club.

The Manchester United boss was obviously hurt by how things turned sour with the Londoners, but admits himself that the Leicester City Chairman has shown a whole new level of ruthlessness, given the magnitude of what Ranieri achieved with an unheralded group of players.

Of course the Leicester personnel, who collectively played above themselves to achieve the impossible last season, are the ones that need to hang their heads in shame after badly letting their manager down, something which Mourinho is only too familiar with given the antics of some of the Chelsea stars in the lead up to his departure from Stamford Bridge.

I've heard plenty of people saying they hope that Leicester City go down given the iron-fisted approach of the Chairman and the lack-lustre manner in which the players have performed, but it's not something I'd wish on the club, given that it's the fans who will suffer once the money men tire of their investment and the spoiled players move on.

Sadly Ranieri's story with Leicester was one fairytale that didn't have a happy ending, but with his customary class the Italian released a dignified and heartfelt statement lamenting the fact that his dream had died.

It's not just Ranieri's dream that is in danger of dying.

So is professional sport as a whole, because with each passing week a little bit more of the wide-eyed excitement is ripped from its soul by the rich puppeteers that pull the strings.

However, what Ranieri achieved with Leicester, the manner in which he did it with a smile on his face, keeping his integrity even after he has been badly let down by those around him shows us there is still a flickering candle flame at the end of the darkening tunnel.

Thank you Claudio for reminding us there's still a bit of allure and charm left in the beautiful game.

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