There are some managers who prefer to work with a handful of big clubs where they can enjoy the luxury of a comfortable transfer budget. And then there are those who are viewed as journeymen by the experts, moving from one job to the next and never quite considered outstanding.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri probably fits perfectly into the second category, having led over ten European clubs since the mid-1980s.
Ranieri started his managerial career in his native Italy and enjoyed success during his initial stints with Cagliari and Napoli. Under his guidance, Cagliari earned promotion to Serie A from the third division and Napoli finished in the fourth place in his first season with the club.
But it was his time with Chelsea from 2000 to 2004 which made him a significant name in the European coaching ranks. Chelsea’s success in the Premier League is mainly attributed to ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho, but it was under Ranieri that the foundation for that success was built.
In his first season, he guided the Blues to a second-place finish behind the famous ‘Invincibles’ team of Arsenal and over the next three years, was responsible for bringing the likes of Frank Lampard and Petr Čech on board.Unfortunately, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s new owner, wanted a bigger name to manage the side and as a result, the Italian was replaced by FC Porto’s Champions League-winning manager Jose Mourinho in 2004.
His stint with Chelsea was praised by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in a recent interview with The Mirror.
“Look at the team of Chelsea when he left: they all survived after. They stayed after as well. They were on the way up when he left. Yes, he built the foundations. He did a great job. He bought Lampard…they had Terry, Desailly, Gallas. They had already a very strong team.
Ranieri went back to his journeyman ways after the sacking, not staying with a club for more than two seasons since his time in charge of Chelsea. In 2014, he was appointed head coach of the Greek national team and there were rumours that he might be done with the club level for a while.
However, in July 2015, he returned to the Premier League when he joined Leicester, a club which finished 14th in the 2014-15 season. However, this season has turned out to be a fairytale for the Foxes, who won their first top-flight title in their 132-year history with Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea on Monday. Ranieri is currently leagues ahead of his rivals for the manager of the year award.
“I didn’t see this season coming and anyone who says they did is lying,” Jesper Gronkjaer, the former Chelsea winger who worked under Ranieri at Stamford Bridge said in an interview to The Guardian. “At his age most people probably said he was more suited to being an international manager rather than jumping back into the Premier League.”
During his stint with Chelsea, the British media called Ranieri ‘the tinkerman’ due to his occasionally unorthodox changes to lineups and tactics, but this time, they have turned Leicester into a title contender. Leicester City adopted the supposedly obsolete 4-4-2 formation under Ranieri’s guidance and thanks to their group of core players this season, they were able to implement the strategy which helped them establish their domination in the Premier League.
Leicester’s City season has been one defined by brilliant performances by Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and the rest of the squad. But while the actors have done their job perfectly, it is the director who deserves the utmost credit for Leicester’s first ever Premier League title.