Claudio Ranieri is a rare individual in the top reaches of football management He exudes amiability towards the world, combined with passion towards the game from the touch line.
He arrived in England in 2000 to coach Chelsea, a prestigious club, but, on sheer weight of trophies, one less successful over the years than two heavyweights from the North West, Manchester United and Liverpool, and (as galling for local pride) their London Rivals, Arsenal.
Ranieri produces results
In a short period of time Ranieri produced results. He took Chelsea to runner-up position, its highest level ever at the time, in the Premiership, To this he added a semifinal of the European Cup. Only the most churlish fans of the ‘runners up are losers’ mentality could complain. Mostly, the fans were delighted. They were even able to enjoy Claudio’s relentless search for the best team, and his tinkering with starting positions which earned him his reputation as The Tinkerman.
His less than perfect grasp of English and cheerful tone in press conferences added to his popularity.
Ranieri’s stay at Chelsea was about to be hit in the most radical change in fortune in the. Club’s history. They were acquired by the Russian Multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich. From the outset it was clear that Chelsea would buy the best players, pay the best wages, and, no secret, the best coach.
Abramovich hires Jose
An unsuccessful attempt was made to lure Sven-Goran Ericsson away from his post as manager of England’s national team.
Meanwhile, a young coach was making an impression on European football with the Portuguese side Porto. His name was Jose Mourinho. Porto won the European cup. Abramovich hired Jose. The Tinkerman left Chelsea.
The ironies of fate
A decade later, in December 2015, Ranieri took the unfashionable club Leicester City to the top of the Premiership. Mourinho was at Chelsea for his second spell as manager there, with a team that was struggling close to the relegation zone.
In one of those ironies of fate, Ranieri’s team faced Chelsea in December and won convincingly. A few days later, Abramovich sacked Jose Mourinho for the second time.
Sometimes, as football philosophers such as Justin Timberlake says, what goes round comes round.
[Extracted from ‘Mourinho Matters‘ (c) Tudor Rickards, to be published in early 2016]
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