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Thursday 13 December 2018

Ranieri aiming high after replacing Jokanovic at Fulham

Jokanovic was Ranieri’s first signing as Chelsea manager in 2000, and now he has been replaced by his old boss at Craven Cottage.

Claudio Ranieri is back managing in the Premier League (Nick Potts/PA)
Claudio Ranieri is back managing in the Premier League (Nick Potts/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

Claudio Ranieri believes Fulham have under-achieved so far this season given the “exceptional talent” in their squad.

The Italian has taken over as manager after chairman Shahid Khan decided to sack Slavisa Jokanovic, who departed on Wednesday with the club bottom of the Premier League following just five points from 12 games.

Ranieri has set his sights higher than mere survival, however, after being given a “multi-year” contract.

Fulham were among the Premier League’s highest spenders in the summer following promotion from the Championship, shelling out approximately £100million to bolster their squad with the likes of Jean Michael Seri – previously linked with Barcelona – Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Alfie Mawson.

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Slavisa Jokanovic was given a lot of money to spend and signed some good players, but Fulham have struggled in the Premier League (John Walton/PA)

Ranieri believes he has inherited a strong group of players and he is already looking up the table ahead of his first game in charge against fellow strugglers Southampton at Craven Cottage on November 24.

“The objective at Fulham should never be to merely survive in the Premier League. We must at all times be a difficult opponent and should expect to succeed,” said Ranieri, who has had a spell in charge of Ligue 1 Nantes since leaving Leicester in February 2017.

“This Fulham squad has exceptional talent that is contrary to its position in the table. I know this team is very capable of better performances, which we will work on straight away as we prepare for Southampton.”

Ranieri gained his first experience of the Premier League at Fulham’s neighbours Chelsea, where he was in charge between 2000 and 2004, but it is the job he did at Leicester which will live in the memory.

The Italian overcame odds of 5,000-1 to steer the Foxes to the Premier League title, the only top-flight championship of his long managerial career. Several bookmakers are currently offering the same odds for Fulham to win the title this season.

Khan said: “Claudio is risk-free and ready-made for the Premier League, and particularly so for what we need at this moment at Fulham.

“His recent body of work with Leicester City is literally legendary, and then you look at Claudio’s experience with Chelsea and big clubs throughout Europe, and it’s pretty evident we are welcoming an extraordinary football man to Fulham Football Club.”

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Claudio Ranieri’s last spell in the Premier League was pretty successful (Nick Potts/PA)

Jokanovic became Fulham manager in December 2015 and led them to the Championship play-offs in two consecutive seasons, getting the club promoted back to the Premier League last term following a 1-0 win against Aston Villa at Wembley.

Khan thanked the 50-year-old for his work but insisted making a change was the “correct decision”, following six straight Premier League losses and seven defeats in a row in all competitions.

“I wasn’t anticipating having to make this announcement related to Slavisa and wish the circumstances were such that I didn’t have to, but our path this season has led me to make what I know is the correct decision, at the right time,” said Khan.

“Slavisa will always have my appreciation and respect for everything he did to return Fulham to top-flight football. I am hoping everyone in the Fulham family shares my heartfelt sentiments for Slavisa and joins me in wishing him success and good fortune, wherever his next stop may be.”

Some Fulham players took to social media to express their gratitude towards Jokanovic while the Fulham Supporters’ Trust echoed Khan’s thanks but criticised the club for getting rid of the Serb just days after appearing to back him following the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool.

“The Fulham Supporters’ Trust are disappointed to see Slavisa Jokanovic leave the club, and want to put on record the thanks and appreciation of Fulham fans for the achievements under his close to three years as manager,” said the Trust’s chair Tom Greatrex in a statement.

“Earlier this week, the club stated their wish to see him succeed, and it will continue to be a matter of debate whether this dismissal has come too early.”

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