The departure of Slav might not have taken us all by surprise but it will definitely take some adjustment to see a new man in the home dugout for our crucial fixture against Southampton on Saturday. With that in mind, we take a look back on five of Ranieri’s past spells at clubs across the continent to see if we can learn anything from his more well-known ventures to some that might not have registered as much on these shores.
Taking your mind back to a place before the takeover of our West London neighbours by Roman Abramovich in 2003 is harder for some of us than others. Ranieri was already in place at the Bridge – having taken over in 2000 – before the Russian’s arrival and led Chelsea to secure a Champions League place for the 2003/04 season on the final day against Liverpool in 02/03. Without a goal from Jesper Gronkjaer, we might not have seen the changes down the road. Ranieri was to last only one season following the change in ownership that saw them finish second to Arsenal in the league and suffer defeat in the Champions League semi-finals against Ranieri’s future charges, AS Monaco. Defeat over the two legs effectively ended the Italian’s stint in charge and was bestowed the unfortunate nicknames of ‘dead man walking’ and more famously the ‘The Tinkerman.’ With the arrival of 14 new players that summer Ranieri had done a good job gelling the squad together – but with so many options his rotation ultimately cost him the faith of the Chelsea hierarchy.
After a return to Spain and Valencia following his sacking from Chelsea, Ranieri spent the 05/06 season out of work and was only to return in February 2007 as manager of 90’s cult side Parma. Following the collapse of their main benefactor Parmalat, the Italian side were in administration in January until they were bought out and Ranieri appointed. In the bottom three and with a squad low on quality, Ranieri seemed to be talking a curious and fateful decision. However, having won just three games in the league all season, this previously goal-shy team lost only twice more for the rest of the campaign as they secured their safety and finished an astonishing 12th place.
The mid-season arrival of Giuseppe Rossi on loan from Man United proved a massive turning point as the striker scored 9 in 19 games. Ranieri would leave at the of the season to join Juventus, but the events at Parma are the biggest parallel to the situation he now finds himself in – something which he has acknowledged himself in his few media appearances.
After a mixed spell rebuilding a Juventus team that were fresh back in Serie A after the Calciopoli scandal, which had seen them relegated and stripped of two titles – Ranieri left the club to join the club of his home city, Roma. Coming in to lead the side after the resignation of Luciano Spalletti after only two games, Ranieri led the Giallorossi to a scarcely believable second half of the season in which they went 24 games unbeaten and lost out on the league title to Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter. You might also remember an encounter with a certain team by the river in the group stage of the 09/10 Europa League campaign. But despite the promise of his first season, Ranieri’s falling out with captain and icon Francesco Totti over benching him and the team’s defensive football, Ranieri was sacked in February 2011.
I think you might know what happened with this one. People have literally written books about this and we are a Fulham website so I won’t go into all the details, but let’s try a quick recap. Coming in after the dismissal of Nigel Pearson – the architect of Leicester’s own great escape – Ranieri’s appointment was derided after a terrible stint as manager of Greece. Universally tipped to be relegated and finish bottom, the Foxes did something that still has more than a touch of fantasy about it. With a counter-attacking 4-4-2, with what we now recognise as top-level players such as Kante, Mahrez and Vardy, they stunned the world to win the unlikeliest of league titles. The high scoring games at the start of the season were followed by a newly found defensive resilience and ruthlessness in front of goal after Christmas, which does seem to fit a pattern of Ranieri’s spell at Parma. The slightly inevitable comedown the following season saw Ranieri sacked after some disastrous league performances, with the threat of relegation a real possibility. It soured the image of Leicester for a lot of people but it almost doesn’t matter. To have that kind of transformative impact on a club is something you can only usually achieve on FIFA or Football Manager, and I’m sure even 50% of that would endear the Italian to the Fulham faithful.
It seemed slightly bizarre that after pulling off the greatest underdog story in 21st-century football, Ranieri found himself at French side Nantes for the 17/18 season. Replacing the progressive and attack-minded Sergio Conceicao (sound familiar?) Ranieri set about imprinting the formula he had used at Leicester In the second half of the title-winning season. A stringent defence had them in the top four around the turn of the year, but a slump in the second half of the season meant Nantes finished 9th albeit with the third best defensive record in the league. However, Claudio’s tenure would end there in France with a host of rumours linking him to the then-vacant Italian national team job.
Ultimately, looking back into these fives spells provides us with certain reasons to be encouraged by the appointment of our new manager. A positive initial impact and an improvement in the defensive side of the team are the most notable things to take away from all of these stints. If Ranieri can achieve anywhere near the levels of success he manufactured from his jobs at Parma and Leicester, then I’m sure there’ll be very few fans that would be upset about that. It will take some time to get used to a different, more rudimentary style, but there are limits to what you look for in the style of the team if you have to sit and watch your team lose on a routine basis. We know how much fans can play a part in the fortunes of the team so let’s make sure we do all that we can against Saints on Saturday because we’re going to need it.