Claudio Ranieri - Aris Gatas - ebook

Claudio Ranieri ebook

Aris Gatas

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How does a team and a coach, who were nearly forgotten three years ago, achieve the impossible? How do they rise to the top and conquer the Premier League, the toughest league in the world? Everyone is entitled to dream big after Claudio Ranieri's miracle with Leicester City. Sports reporter Aris Gatas has followed Ranieri's course over the last two years, collecting exclusive interviews and reports and using them to create this detailed biography of Ranieri. The last three years had their ups and downs for Claudio Ranieri—from the outcry over the Greek national team's downfall, to the triumph of bringing Leicester to the Premier League title! The Italian coach became a symbol of faith in reaching one's goals. He is a fine example of optimism, confidence, and positive energy. He is the Tinkerman who transformed into the THINKERman. Ranieri's achievements will captivate you. With anecdotal, shocking stories from all those whose lives were changed after the miracle of Leicester, this book is a guide for young people who dream of conquering the remarkable world of soccer, and more besides.

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ARIS GATAS

CLAUDIO

RANIERI

T(H)INKERMAN

Original title: Claudio Raineri — The Thinkerman

© Aris Gatas, [email protected]

Translation: Vagenas Alex

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Claudio Ranieri: T(h)inkerman

Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2018

ISBN 978-1-78255-336-6

All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced–including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means–processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.

© 2018 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.

Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf, Indianapolis, Maidenhead, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Vienna

Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA) www.w-s-p-a.org

ISBN 978-1-78255-336-6

E-Mail: inf[email protected]

www.m-m-sports.com

CONTENTS

Introduction

1 “Nessun Dorma”: My Life

2 Treat the Team As If It Were Your Child

3 An Endless Adventure

4 Sven’s Shadow and Roman

5 Destiny Is Dancing

6 Leave With Dignity Even If You’re Being Treated Unfairly

7 Accountants Worldwide Unite

8 The Charter Breaks Down En Route to the Mundial

9 Kings in England and Europe: Driven Away From Greece

10 Excuse Me, Sirs… Who Is the President?

11 Bombs Falling Everywhere

12 Left in the Dark

13 Unsuccessful Attempts

14 Greece Was My Mistake

15 The Metamorphosis of the Tinkerman

16 Ranieri Versus Mourinho

17 On the Road to a Miracle

August 2015: Against All Odds From Day One

September 2015: You Old Fox

October 2015: Welcome, Thinkerman

November 2015: Bionic Jamie

December 2015: Dilly Ding Dilly Dong!

January 2016: Claudio Got His Gun

February 2016: Happy Days

March 2016: Like Obama and Castro

April 2016: Tears of a Lifetime

May 2016: A Mother’s Blessing

18 Leicester’s Numbers

19 The Ranieri Sausage

20 The Legend of King Richard III and the Supernatural Title Win

21 Claudio’s Magic Wand

22 Hello, Sharks, Welcome to the Funeral

23 How Things Change

24 Leicester’s Market Value

25 The Algerian Magician

26 Jamie’s Fairytale

27 You’re Always Talking

28 Forrest Gump of Leicester

29 Morgan the Magic Rum

30 Ranieri Merchandise

31 Leicester Crisps

32 All Great Loves Go to Heaven

33 The Betting Miracle

34 The Man That Changed Our Lives

35 The Premier League Will Never Be the Same

36 Graffiti for Claudio

37 The Impersonator of Love

38 Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

39 Buddhist Monks and the Secret

40 The Magician From Thailand

41 Thailand: An Opening in Asia

42 Vichai and Leicester

43 Almond Sweets From Mykonos

44 The Thinkerman of Our Lives

INTRODUCTION

In early May of 2016, followers of the global sports scene had just one question in mind: How did Ranieri manage to become king of the Premier League?

This eleven-word question coincides with the greatest miracle that has ever taken place in the world of football teams. A team and a coach who had been nearly forgotten a year earlier had ultimately achieved the impossible by claiming the title of the toughest league on the planet.

Everyone began to realize that something was changing for Leicester some time before the miracle even occurred.

In the magical world of English football, this is not the first time that a Cinderella has become queen; Kenny Dalglish had achieved something similar with Blackburn in 1994-1995.

However, it is the first time in the history of the sport that the entire football world wanted this Cinderella to take the throne. And it wanted this to happen because her prince, Claudio Ranieri, and his knights had, in their own inimitable fashion, initiated the entire football kingdom into the cult of his Cinderella.

Before winning the title, Blackburn made a record transfer by acquiring Alan Shearer, and spent huge sums in order to get that extra push. Ranieri’s Leicester had a budget that was even lower than Sunderland’s and Watford’s but her story had the fairytale ending it deserved, as anyone who fully embraced the spirit of this team knew that it would. It became a symbol for faith and the right to dream about life, work, and day-to-day reality, simply by doing it in her own way, guided by optimism and fellowship among players. One for all and all for their leader.

It did not take long for that leader to gain recognition and this is Ranieri’s greatest achievement. This is the message he created by following his path and maintaining his attitude. There is a sense of dignity and honesty in everything that he does, both within and apart from Leicester. He remained goal-oriented throughout his own journey of self-improvement and self-fulfillment in the world of English football; he went from being the Tinkerman with Chelsea in 2004 to becoming the Thinkerman with Leicester in 2016.

His confidence and devotion became known to all parts of the world, his infectious positive energy lifting the spirits of many and sending one single message: that we too can reach out and touch a miracle, even when it seems that all odds are against us.

Over the last two years, I met and interviewed Claudio Ranieri during the two most crucial moments of his coaching career. The first during the lowest—we met shortly before his catastrophic experience coaching the Greek National Team, on the eve of the game against the Faroe Islands—and the latter at his most glorious—a few weeks before he was crowned King of the Premier League. He was exactly the same: a man with a plan and a very structured way of thinking. Only his emotions, so clearly etched on his face, were different; peaceful in Leicester, horrified by the defeat in Rome.

He remains a true gentleman, principled and direct in both thought and speech. A balanced man, unwavering in his ideas. It took two years to go from abject sorrow to utter joy; from complete doubt to universal acceptance. Life plays strange games and Claudio Ranieri’s journey over the last two years was one of them.

The book you hold in your hands is a record of the stories from those whose lives have been touched by Ranieri’s miracle with Leicester, from the players to the Thai tycoon who owns the British team; from his close associates to Peter, the Italian pizza man who saw his life change since Ranieri started treating his squad to pizza after every match they were not scored against; from local small businessmen to the street vendors outside the King Power Stadium.

It can be seen as a young persons’ guide to the strange world of football. From Ranieri’s adventure they can learn that nothing is impossible when you keep the faith, have willpower, and are committed in all you do. It contains previously unpublished accounts of the Italian coach’s course over the last two years and of coincidences that almost border on the supernatural. It’s a thrilling story full of imagination and excitement but also his characteristic modesty: from the experience of crushing defeat to conquering the Premier League and eventually ultimate recognition for a man who performed miracles after having experienced disappointment on the bench of another team.

This man, who brought happiness to all those around him and gained the highest seal of approval, is Claudio. An honorable man now worshiped in every part of the world for his originality and diversity all the way from the small town of Leicester to Bangkok, Rome, Athens, and New York.

His own success has inspired people to believe in themselves, attain their own goals, and see life in a different light. He made people happy with the miracle of Leicester City yet he has always remained genuine. Never for even a moment did he let his newfound glory change him. He has remained confident and wise and consistently creative. A daring but conscientious man with the effortless grace of a British noble. He has provided an example worth following by all those who aspire to reach the top.

It is not an easy task to assess all of Ranieri’s achievements from the last two years in a concrete fashion. Something new always arises, no matter how many things one discovers. With his trademark positivity he was able to effect the transformation of an objectively negative experience into a miracle. However, his story is not just about the miracle itself that had the world’s attention transfixed on the football scene, it is also about his ability to alter the perception of the sport itself. His story epitomizes the victory of all those who really struggle to accomplish what they desire at some point in their lives.

From July 25, 2014, when the official announcement was made that he would be coaching the national team of Greece, until the time Leicester conquered the Premier League, Ranieri had been on an upward journey. Through the stories of those who were around him during that time—those whose lives he changed—we learn that he was always the key. He is given credit for the greatest part of their success.

The international media presented the miracle of Leicester as one of 2016’s most amazing moments. Everyone set out to discover the secret of his success. Ranieri achieved the unexpected because he didn’t work in stereotypical ways. He thought outside of the box in such a way that he was able to fire up his players’ belief in themselves. The established perception and image of English football was completely turned on its head during the 2015-2016 season.

The teams of the Premier League implement specific tactics in order to reach the top. Money is the driving force. He knew this well from his experience on the benches of other great teams, where he had managed huge budgets. When it came to managing Leicester, he knew that he was taking the risk of following practices, which, in different times, may not have allowed him to remain on the bench of a Premier League club for a long time.

He immediately agreed to keep on the previous coach’s associates and only brought his fitness trainer with him. This was his first internal victory. He collaborated with people he had never met before. He was recommended several assistants and had to figure out right away who was really going to be of value to him, thus saving precious time.

He never disturbed his new team’s daily equilibrium; instead, he followed the regimen that had been established by his predecessors because he was reluctant to risk anything by making drastic changes. He knew that by keeping the key links of the chain intact, he would be able to make it stronger. He allowed his mind to think freely and never imprisoned it within traditional, conventional ideas and solutions like those taught in coaching schools. Ranieri stepped outside the ordinary and worked with what he learned from experience. He trusted his instincts.

The players were given two days off per week so they could unwind after the intense matches. During the season, they were given a week off so that they could go on holiday. People thought he was insane and judged him for this decision. The usual strategy in professional football leagues is to literally not give the players any room to catch a breath. They are put through double and triple training sessions throughout the season and are expected to perform like robots. Ranieri’s players were just regular people. Athletes with their ups and downs. Ranieri bucked the system by applying innovative strategies. This could have been his downfall, but things turned out otherwise.

As a matter of fact, taking that risk led to celebration later. He chose freedom and authenticity and did not restrict himself to established rules, even in seemingly little things, which made all the difference in the end. He did so with sensitivity and trust in his beloved players.

Displaying his trademark maturity and responsibility, he did not attempt to force them to follow a strict diet when they went home. He gave each player the freedom to choose their own meals. He trusted their own judgement, and they returned that trust. He gave them freedom in their choices every step of the way of their great journey together.

Every year, the top European teams invest a vast amount of money in nutrition programs. It is a serious and important factor for the players’ well-being and performance. The Leicester City team did not eat junk food at motorway service stations like Jamie Vardy had to do in his childhood. They all adequately followed their Italian coach’s method of self-improvement. Everyone was personally responsible for their own actions and he urged them to rely on their willpower and absolute commitment to reach their goal. Everyone was their own dietitian, nutritionist, and physiotherapist, all rolled into one.

This was a great victory for Ranieri. The greatest before all the victories that were to come on the pitch. It was a gamble and a life lesson for all of them. An example worth following. When driven by passion and a thirst to succeed, people can achieve anything if they put their heart and soul in whatever they do by focusing on their goal and thinking positively.

In the history of sport and British football specifically, Claudio Ranieri will be remembered like another Leonidas of Sparta, who, together with a small band of warriors, achieved the impossible.

1

“Nessun Dorma”: My Life

The chanting and cheers of Leicester’s ecstatic supporters echo through King Power Stadium as they all euphorically celebrate winning the Premier League title. It is a fascinating sight. To the west of the stadium’s main entrance, one-man skiffs gliding noiselessly along the water of the River Soar, as if rowing in time to the music of celebration, create a dreamlike scene.

Hordes of rowdy Leicester supporters hurry to catch the last performance of the season. The festive atmosphere in the stadium blends perfectly with all the decorations. A huge makeshift podium filled with flowers stands at centerfield. Everything is ready.

When Claudio calmly raises his left hand to signal the crowd to hush, everyone is perplexed. He does not do that often. He usually does the opposite, waving both arms in the air wildly in a circular motion, calling upon the crowd to boost the team’s moral. This time it is different. This time it is magical.

He is the champion of England and Andrea Bocelli is serenading him with his spellbinding voice. This is exactly what he has dreamed about for many years. Indeed, this is like a scene taken from a movie. In fact, the last two years of his life have indeed been a movie with himself cast as both the star and an extra. There is nothing else quite like this.

The fans settle down, instinctively responding to Claudio’s request. He has never refused them anything. Now it is time for them to reciprocate. With his other hand, just moments ago, Ranieri led his blind friend, Andrea Bocelli, to the specially designed stage on centerfield.

Today is his day. This is the moment that changed the status of world football. Even the most football-ignorant person on the planet can comprehend what this win means. Leicester—up until yesterday only an insignificant English team—has been crowned queen.

The image of Ranieri and Bocelli standing next to each other fills the screens. People are celebrating in Bangkok and crying proud tears of joy in his birthplace, Testaccio. The celebration of Leicester winning the title is one of the most powerful moments in the history of the Premier League. Words cannot describe how unique this moment is. Andrea Bocceli came to Leicester from Rome in honor of his friend Claudio.

Andrea is wearing a Leicester jersey with his name printed on the back. He has been unable to see since childhood; he paid for his passion for the sport with his eyesight. At the age of twelve, he went to play football with his mates in his small Italian neighborhood. A strong blow to the head with the ball was fatal to his already ailing eyes. For years, he had been suffering from glaucoma, but doctors would later tell his parents that the ball striking his head sealed the fate of the boy’s sight.

God may have deprived him of his sight, but he gave the world the joy of enjoying Bocelli’s divine voice. And this divine voice had come to King Power Stadium as Ranieri’s special guest, on the finest day of his football career.

Bocelli bursts into song. Magical melodies fill the stadium and it seems as if angels are floating upon the grass of the pitch.

The boisterous Leicester fans are not easily disciplined so their commotion is overshadowing the moment of Bocelli’s performance. They are all united, living the dream. It is not easy to tame thousands of people. They are delirious. Claudio turns his head to look at Andrea and lifts his left hand signaling to the people that the moment is crucial.

He motions them to pause for a moment, so they can all listen and embark on a journey out of this world together, with the tenor guiding the way. Bocelli’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma” now fills the air.

For the second time, Claudio is introducing the fans to something they certainly have not experienced before. The first was the championship win. Now he is asking the crowd to show their guest, who has come there to join them in celebrating victory, the respect and attention he deserves. This gesture is indicative of Ranieri’s character. He has shown how he thinks and how he experiences the moment. He has done so several times throughout the year when facing his opponents.

The fans abruptly fall silent and stand listening, mesmerized. The two Italians on stage leave everyone speechless. Claudio closes his eyes and fights back the tears, all of his emotions wrapped in the magic of the moment. It is his day. In his mind, he watches the film of the last two years of his life unfold. He travels even further back, from his father’s butcher shop in Testaccio to the principality of Monaco. The thoughts, feelings, tears of an emotional man. All one inside him.

This day is for his players and for the fans who believed in the miracle and supported him with their love the entire season, and who had been there for him during crucial moments when he called out for their help.

Like on a wet evening at King Power, in the middle of March 2016, against Newcastle, the match where Okazaki scored by leaping like a ninja for an overhead kick, putting Leicester City in the lead. It was an incredible goal! Defeating Newcastle was imperative for Leicester, who had eight matches to go until the season finale. Claudio knew this well, but had noticed how tired his players were growing. A few days earlier, Newcastle had welcomed their new manager, Rafa Benitez, and the Spanish coach, smart and levelheaded, was ready for the best, but also prepared for the worst.

The clock ticked and Newcastle picked up their pace. Ranieri, sensing the change in the opponent, resorted to a tactic that always worked. He turned to the fans and threw his fists in the air, imploring them to motivate their team. As if they had received an electric shock, forty thousand frantic fans got up and cheered enthusiastically, pushing their team with their positive energy. A wave of faith spread through King Power. All became one, the fans, the players, and their maestro who had given them the cue.

After that, it had not been necessary for Ranieri to do anything out of the ordinary against Newcastle besides some standard substitutions; his job was done. Leicester defeated Newcastle 1-0, got the golden three points, and now had—weeks in advance—their eye on the prize.

In life, one cannot demand to be respected. The lesson to be learned here is that respect is earned. This was clearly demonstrated by the way the crowd responded to the coach’s signal. The forty thousand people urging their team in unison during the game with Newcastle, are the same crowd that now stands silent in front of Bocelli, respecting Ranieri’s signal. They listen to the music and travel with Claudio, who has become their ringleader. He is the perfect guide and leader, having total control over everyone: forty thousand people and his twenty-five players.

As things would have it, he was able to pull through in the end and accomplish everything he wanted to do in his career. It had been an incredible adventure full of twists and emotions: from a difficult start with Cagliari—where his managerial career began—to the crushing moment of the Greek national team’s defeat by the Faroe Islands. There had been remarkable moments with top European football clubs. There had been the magical nights with his beloved Roma, with Valencia, and the principality of Monaco. Abramovich and Chelsea, which he had adored. Magical Madrid and Atletico, Florence too. Two years with Napoli.

It is story like a novel with its ups and downs. He, however, always remained dapper, Italian to the core, sitting on Leicester’s bench with his lucky tie and black coat.

The story of the black cashmere coat seems almost supernatural. Almost every match was won when he wore that coat. It seemed like he was fated to wear that coat every time there was a big match in the 2015-2016 season. This coat is destined for a prominent place in a sports museum.

All people face good and bad moments in their lives and it has been the same for Ranieri; the road of his coaching career was not covered in rose petals. That would not have been the case anyway. The signs were there that things were working against him even before he took his place on Leicester’s bench on July 13, 2015. It was not only because of his disastrous collaboration with the national Greek team, but because those who welcomed him at Leicester—chiefly Gary Lineker—did not think it was a good time for him to take over the team. It was not because they did not believe him to be a great manager or because things had not gone well with another team prior to the move. The problem was timing, which made even the most optimistic of them skeptical about it.

Leicester was just coming out of a long stint with a manager that had become synonymous with the club, and that was none other than Nigel Pearson. Nowhere in the world do teams trust their managers as much as the British teams do their own. Perhaps the greatest difficulty facing a successor on a team’s bench is having to weather the storm in order to be able to achieve longevity.

Not every day could be a happy day and he often had to be hard on his players during pre-season training.

Sometimes he even used military training methods, although, as with every team he worked with, he treated all the athletes fairly. He gave them many opportunities and brought out the best of themselves. He was often warm and attentive, at other times dynamic and ruthless, while always having the common interest at heart, always exhibiting positive energy and team spirit.

After the game against Everton at the finale of a historical year, and just before he appeared in front of the reporters in the press conference, Claudio put on one of the most expensive suits he owned. The occasion called for it because he was the champion of England and, as a true Italian, he had to look sharp.

Italians tend to be very stylish. They will wake up in the morning and before they do anything else, they will put on their cologne and choose a tie for the day. Ranieri likes to look smart and wear expensive clothes. He is a man of exquisite taste.

He also knows how to embrace the moment. Every moment, especially one such as this. Standing next to Andrea Bocelli, “Nessun Dorma” soaring through the stadium, with his eyes closed, his life and memories floated through his mind.

2

Treat the Team As If It Were Your Child

The battle cries at the end of World War II filled the European continent as the Chinese and South Korean forces took over Seoul in the early 1950s. During the same era, Bell Laboratories creates the first telephone answering machine, changing people’s lives forever. The Stasi, the secret police founded in East Germany, will change the political and social sphere for many years to come. In Silverstone, England, the first round of the Formula 1 world championship takes place and alters the history of auto racing, while in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the first rocket is launched. On October 26, 1951, exactly six days after Ranieri’s birth, Winston Churchill becomes Britain’s prime minister once again.

Rome lives in the present by using the past in the same way someone would use old tools. Rome now has to heal its own wounds following the end of the interwar years.

As Claude Moatti says, the ancient dimension of Rome is present everywhere in the city, even floating on the waters of Tiber, where the ancient remains of the Ponte Rotto—the oldest stone bridge in Rome—still stand.

Ruins of the past, beauty upon beauty, take on new shapes and forms, even if they are sometimes incongruous.

During the Middle Ages, there were residential buildings atop the ruins of the Theatre of Marcellus and the thermal public baths of Diocletian were turned into a church designed by Michelangelo. Again in the Middle Ages, the triumphal arches, theaters, and tombs were converted into fortresses or towers, while the markets and the Colosseum were used as marble quarries. The Christians did not look down upon the pagan temples, so they moved into them like conquerors taking the homes of the defeated, dumbfounded by the beauty of these buildings.

The surrounding areas outside the museums are filled with ruins. In many places they extend along public streets, and sometimes they are enclosed in the national gardens where someone can enjoy them when they go to see the wild animals in the zoos. They are at Via Appia, in Colle Oppio, in front of the Villa Medici, below the churches and the houses. Rome stirs and awakens, and all of the city’s ancient figures stand before you like characters in a three-dimensional picture book.

All of Rome’s history can be studied through this resurrection of ancient times as if it were a monumental fossil preserving the remnants of ancient hippodromes and theaters throughout the city. The past resurfaces and you can sense the grace of times gone by all around you.

Today, one is used to the busy medieval streets, with the younger population in helmets zipping through traffic on motor scooters. Rome, an enchanting interwar city which was thought to have died, is still very much alive and living through its ancient history. A place like no other, the past constantly co-exists with the present, creating an eternal city.

In Testaccio, there are elegant white housing complexes that recall the dynamism of the beginning of the century. A country road passes through the old slaughterhouses, which today have become a cultural center. The road winds past stables with horse-drawn carriages for tourists, and ends at a space where there are carriages that are no longer used.

In this working-class district in the Italian capital, Claudio Ranieri was born on October 20, 1951. It was a neighborhood that didn’t have the best reputation, but it was also a neighborhood where children aimed to continue the family trade for their future profession. Here, at the banks of the Tiber, young Claudio grew up having only one dream the first years of his life: to be a butcher just like his father, whom he idolized.

The neighborhood was famous for its slaughterhouses, but the lads who lived there had just one goal in life, to escape and live the dream. It was not an easy life and seeing his father wake up early in the morning and return home late at night, young Claudio decided to rebel against his own destiny.

At first, football was just a game the neighborhood children played with a ball made of rags, but it later became a means for him to live out his own dream. When he walked through the threshold of Roma’s Academies, his career in the fascinating world of football began. He had only one goal in mind, to reach the top and make his parents proud.

In the beginning he managed quite well, and even though all the kids his age admired the big top-scoring players like Mazzola and Rivera, Claudio chose to play as a defender. He had a more cerebral approach to the game, but he was also quick and decisive. He signed his first contract as a professional footballer for Roma.

For two seasons he had only six league appearances and he realized he might have to take a step back in order to breathe new life into his football career. He had a one-month loan spell with Siracusa from Roma, but his greatest moments were with Catanzaro, where he played for eight years and had two successful campaigns. He lived such moments with Catania as well, where he played for two years, and also with Palermo which was promoted to Serie A in the two-year period from 1984 to 1986.

Claudio’s career as a player ended when he was 35 years old. Right away, the passion he had for coaching grew within him. Ever since he had donned his player’s uniform, he was like a second coach on the pitch.

“The team is like a child. If a child makes a mistake and you put them under pressure, a child cannot grow up to be confident.”

This was his motto and it was embedded in his mind from the start. It became the strategy that later took him to the top. He believed that positive energy, patience, and persistence pay off in the end. These are things that never ceased to matter to him since the time he was on the bench of Vigor Lamezia, an amateur Italian team. It was these things that accompanied him to the Premier League championship.

Essentially, Ranieri’s start in his incredible coaching career was with Puteolana, a small football club from Pozzuoli, founded in 1902, which joined the Italian Football Federation of Italy in 1914. In the early 1920s, Puteolana played in the Serie A, and won titles in the Serie C.

Claudio fell in love with coaching from the very first day. He started to look at the job from a different angle. The results were fantastic. Fifteen clubs and a national team! Through it all, he was passionate and devoted. Through it all, enthusiasm and productivity were never lacking. There were no exceptions to the rule. He faced everything with a smile and positive energy, even on the most difficult days.

Lamezia, Puteolana, Cagliari, Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia (twice), Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan, Monaco, the Greek National Team, Leicester…

“I want to coach even in the afterlife, which I do believe in,” Claudio always says when expressing his love for his position on the benches.

3

An Endless Adventure

Claudio will always be passionate about his beliefs in all that he does. Just like his first great moment when he rocked the boat of Italian football with Cagliari. With consecutive promotions from the third division, he led them to Serie A. And if well begun is half done in most things in life, Ranieri could not have made his introduction to the world of football in a better way.

It was only natural that his name would become widely familiar outside the Italian border. His first important milestone was with the difficult Italian south, Napoli, in the post-Maradona era. In the two years he was with the Partenopei club, he was not able to get a title, but left as his legacy Gianfranco Zola, a player that he always appreciated and that he frequently mentions in his public statements. It was a gamble that paid off with Napoli, and he won more gambles of this kind throughout his coaching career.

It was a bumpy road and, even though the story did not have a happy ending, it left him with a legacy of experiences and life lessons. The collaboration ended with Napoli in fourth place in the Campionato. He was sacked by the owner, Corrado Ferlaino, who was an unusual man—in 2002, after Ranieri’s dismissal, Ferlaino was arrested and sent to jail.

History records each person’s story in its own mysterious way. Such is life, not only for football clubs. There is no escaping destiny.

Florence is a lovely place to go on holiday for its ambience, its beauty, and its romantic vibe! It is also famous for Fiorentina, the city’s football team that has written its own history in the Campionato. It was the next challenge for the restless but always determined and always professional Claudio. He always wanted his choices to result in ideal collaborations. Fiorentina was looking for a coach with his qualities and Vittorio Cecchi Gori, an eccentric football club owner, immediately appointed him.

His destiny to be involved with eccentric people followed him there too. He stayed on the bench of the Viola for four years, working with great players like Batistuta. He did wonderful things with them, leading them through noteworthy victories and an Italian cup, as well as the Super Cup of 1995-1996.

There are moments in his coaching career when promoting great players was his main goal. At the end of the day, he enjoyed being able to bask in the results of his work, which he had set the conditions for.

When he took over Valencia in 1997, he knew exactly where he was going. He was to coach a team with the lowest scores. During his first stint, he managed to lead the team to win the Spanish Copa del Rey in 1999! The initiative to recruit new players from the academies, who later brought the club to the top, was very successful; it felt as if they had already won championships and cups together. Mendieta, Angulo, Farinos, and goalkeeper Santiago Canizares were his choices, players that he had been watching while they were still in academies or that he brought in as transfers from other teams and then promoted.

His training regimens are created with an eye to the future, not just short-term results. For 2015-2016, there was no possibility to get new players, although he was always in touch with all the coaches of all the clubs.

It is a known fact that life plays curious games, and Ranieri experienced this firsthand throughout his career.

After Valencia came the offer from Atletico Madrid, which was not without risk. The Spanish team had already entered a liquidation process due to debts of the owner, the eccentric Jesus Gil. Even before taking the position, Claudio knew that things would be working against him. Not only did he have to deal with the eccentric president of the Spanish team, he also had to face the prospect of demotion to the second division because of Atletico’s low ranking. Gil was asking him to do impossible things and Claudio realized right away that he would have no future at Vicente Calderon, and he resigned before Gil could dismiss him. At the end of the 1999-2000 season, Atletico, with its many problems, was relegated from the Primera Division. But Claudio had nipped the situation in the bud, so there was no possibility for him to be considered a loser.

This was a lesson that he remembered beyond a shadow of a doubt: you must always listen to your heart and trust your instincts. Both his heart and his instincts were screaming inside him, telling him not to go to Madrid. But it happened and he took a hit, which he vowed to learn from. He began working on his ability to approach people with his personality. He became stellar in public relations. He is good at it because he acts from the heart. He has never deceived anyone, even though thousands of words have been written about the compensation he received after leaving some of the clubs. He made sure to work as a professional should.

When you meet Claudio Ranieri in person, you realize he is a man who oozes dignity. He does not do it pretentiously, and he is not putting on an act. He is acting as himself. This is the role that suits him the best.

Despite the fact that his career was not at its best after leaving Spain, he always had his charm to rely on. He knew how to polish and sell himself. There is no way he could ever fade into the background, because he knows how to read the moment and weigh the facts. So, it is only natural that his next team should be on the level he himself desired. But destiny had more adventures in store for him.

4

Sven’s Shadow and Roman

Throughout Ranieri’s entire coaching career, Chelsea had been one of his greatest loves. In the summer of 2000, when entering discussions with the Londoners, his only concern was that there would be a language barrier should they come to an agreement. Ranieri was 49 years old at the time and could not speak English well enough to communicate properly. He needed English lessons.

Upon arriving in London, he considered himself fortunate because Chelsea had Italian and Spanish players. In the beginning, since the players who could understand him interpreted his instructions to the rest, everyone knew what he was telling them. But Claudio believed that direct communication with his squad was imperative. He did not want his poor English skills to come between them.

So he hit the books and learned to speak English, even though the problem could have been solved with a professional interpreter. But he did not want that. He would need to have physical contact with the players (e.g., when taking their pulse) so he felt he needed to be able to communicate with them himself, maintaining complete control without the intervention of anyone else. He had to improve his knowledge of the English language.

He was off to an average start with Chelsea and not very pleased with himself. In the summer, he was asked to lower the budget for the transfers, a request which, in the big clubs, is equivalent to being half-dismissed.