With around 30 years of managerial experience without a league title in a top division, Claudio Ranieri was known for his consistent failure to steer a big club over the line. The Italian coach was nevertheless well respected due to his sterling work with sides in lower divisions, but his reputation in the game had taken a big hit at the time of his return to the Premier League.
He boasts a CV of excellent work with different sides, but the lack of top-flight title was a black mark given how many clubs he was managed. It led towhy mixed reaction when he took over the reigns of Leicester City last summer, but he’s proven his biggest critics wrong by winning the title against all odds. His career was mixed with muted success, club dismissals and failures, but the experience has moulded him into a man capable of turning underdogs into achievers.
Ranieri cut his teeth with amateur sides Vigor Lamezia and Campania Puteolana before a move to Cagliari that put his name on the map. The Italian coach took the club from Serie C1 to Serie A in consecutive seasons. He won the Coppa Italia Serie C title and went on to steady the ship with cash-strapped Napoli between 1991 and 1993, qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
A four-year stay with Fiorentina from 1993 saw Ranieri take the club back to Serie A in his first season, before winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana in 1996. To this day, his 56 wins with the Violas is his second-best return with a club. Ironically he went on to move to a fallen giant again and steered them to continental qualification when he joined Valencia in 1997. Ranieri inherited a top-half side and led them to the Champions League. He won the UEFA Intertoto Cup and Copa Del Rey before leaving the club in 1999.
A short-lived spell with relegation-threatened Atletico Madrid was a low point in Ranieri’s career, and he resigned from his position before Atletico’s relegation at the end of the season. However, he went on to become a household name when Chelsea appointed him as their manager in 2000. Tasked to rebuild an ageing side into that of a young one, Ranieri led Chelsea to finish stronger year after year. He led them to the Champions League which pushed through Roman Abramovich’s takeover of the club. He built up a reputation as a “tinkerman” for continually changing his lineups every week.
Despite only falling short in the title race to an Arsenal side who went the entire season unbeaten, he was relieved of his duties in the summer of 2004. The lucrative finances meant heightened expectations but his career hit a real low after his return to Valencia. His penchant for tactical changes led to a tumultuous spell in 2005 and he was sacked less than a year after taking the job.
Taking a two-year sabbatical from the game, he returned to Italy with Parma and beat the drop after inheriting a side out of sorts in the Serie A. He then joined Juventus few months later in a bittersweet spell that saw him make enemies and take a dent to his reputation.
Juve just returned to the top-flight after the match-fixing scandal, and Ranieri led them to the Champions League and a top-three finish. However, his second season resulted in his sacking and then-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho heavily criticized him for his lack of major honours in a top division. The two managers locked horns in the Champions League last-16 in 2009, but Ranieri came unstuck before being removed from the job.
A two-year spell with AS Roma ended poorly with Ranieri unable to maintain a brilliant debut season into his second campaign. He was beaten in the Coppa Italia final in 2010 against a Mourinho’s Inter and were forced to watch the Nerazzurri go on to win the treble the same year, having surrendered their top spot to Inter late in that season.
Ranieri resigned in 2011 after a poor run of results in the second season, but suffered another major setback in Italy with Mourinho’s former side. Ranieri didn’t last the season at Inter and was shown the door after falling considerably short in the title race. He lost his job after a run of two wins from 13 matches and had now racked up a lot of years with top Italian sides without delivering a title. It led him to make a swift change in career to get back to building up his trophy cabinet.
Claudio Ranieri went to Ligue 2 with a cash-rich AS Monaco in 2012 and won promotion to the top-flight in his first season before finishing runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain in the next campaign. Having signed only a two-year deal with Monaco, he left the club in 2014 when he suffered one of the worst spells of his career.
The 64-year-old joined the Greece national football team but was heavily criticised for his interchanging of players and styles, and was sacked after just four games, failing to win a single match. His next job was crucial to restoring his reputation. At the age of 64, it could have been his last in the game, but Ranieri looked to have resigned to his top-flight title dream when he agreed to join Leicester City.
With Ranieri having won just one league title (Ligue 2) in his 19 years career, coupled with his numerous sackings, his move to Leicester City was met with real scepticism. Supporters and pundits alike acknowledged his experience but didn’t feel he could handle a side expected to be in and around the relegation spots.
However, he surpassed all expectations to win the Premier League title while capitalising on the failures of the giants to rule the roost in 2015/16 season. It was a long wait to win a top-flight crown, but Ranieri’s change in style was the biggest shock too. The Italian coach had suffered poor runs of form with his former sides while by changing his squad too often – earning the “tinkerman” tag – but at Leicester, he made his changes early in the season and trusted his team to deliver.
All the changes and alterations he made were done in training. The players culpable for their defensive woes were coached to be more organised rather than taken out of the team, and Ranieri & his staff maximised the qualities of the rest of the squad to get ahead in games and resiliently hold onto the result. If this is to be Ranieri’s last managerial job in football, It has been a perfect way to bow out by overcoming criticism to do what many believed was impossible.
All the criticism for having failed to win major honours with the big clubs, for Ranieri to win the league with a former relegation-threatened side is nothing short of incredible.