“Domestic results in the current campaign have placed the club’s Premier League status under threat and the board reluctantly feels that a change of leadership, while admittedly painful, is necessary in the club’s greatest interest.”
That is only part of Leicester City’s press release informing their fans and the footballing world the Foxes have officially sacked Claudio Ranieri. The Tinkerman; one of football’s most beloved managers and up until last season one of the unluckiest in football sacked unceremoniously. Ranieri was certainly not a Carlo Ancelotti or a Pep Guardiola, highly successful managers in their own vein who have become legendary in their achievements throughout their playing and managerial careers. However Ranieri was known as a man who could get the job done but never one to really win a club a title.
Rewind nine months ago and you would be hard pressed not to be bombarded with pictures of the most unheralded Premier League championship run in history. Leicester were plastered everywhere from papers, TV all the way to social media. Simply put you could not escape the miracle that was Leicester City being crowned champions with a 10 point gap no less. Irrespective of the club fans fostered an appreciation of their feat, with a squad that was built more for a relegation dogfight than championship tilt. The run was beautiful with every fan possible rooting for them to lift the title and break the hegemony that has existed since Blackburn lifted the title so many years before. Ranieri was charming, effervescent and his statements were often colourful, laced with humour of a man who was daring to dream but keeping perspective at the same time.
This season however has seen a a swift 360 with the team languishing a point outside of the relegation zone, kicked out of both cup competitions in addition to suffering a 2-1 away defeat to Sevilla in the first leg of their maiden champions league campaign. Many had thought that with Vardy finally breaking his goal scoring drought of 2017, the fortunes of each would uplift to drive the squad away from relegation domestically. Alas we will not know for sure until the conclusion of this campaign. Many felt that Ranieri had finally found the right motivational factors to get his players back into their renowned fighting spirit to retain their rightful place in the Premier League. Ranieri will still be there at the club saving them from their doom. How wrong that assumption may proved to be.
It is an entirely different story for both club and manager with each facing a different path, with many fans turning on Leicester for the way they have casually dismissed Ranieri from his position. Die hard fans on Twitter have naturally defended their clubs decision and rightfully so, however many have been left with a sour taste in their mouths with the way his sacking occurred. No less than two weeks ago the club released a statement which gave Ranieri their “unwavering support” and many applauded this decision from the club hierarchy. It showed a mature approach with a long term sustained view of the club with Ranieri still firmly in charge of inspiring his troops. Clubs these days are known for being trigger happy if a manager does not perform, and it seems that the powers that be at King Power no longer felt confident that Ranieri could do the job. His sacking is widely regarded as disgraceful turn of events by the club by fans and players alike.
Who’s to blame?
Is Ranieri truly to blame for their drop in form? five wins this season and a lack of goals in 2017 indicate that yes he is likely to blame. If a manager is unable to get the best out of his under performing, than many feel he needs to be replaced promptly to try and find the solution. Ironically Ranieri is usually the man to be brought in to help a club starve off an emergency or relegation, yet it seems he is unfit to help the club do just that. If anything though the players are just as much to blame as Ranieri is. Stars of last season such as Jaime Vardy, Mahrez, Drinkwater and co have been far from their mercurial best and have neglected to take accountability. They have let Ranieri down after he continually backed them each week. Rumours swirled he had lost the confidence of the playing staff, with only a few namely Kasper Schmeichel coming to his defense publicly. Non of the aforementioned stars never did that.
Schmeichel has been the only shining light for Leicester this season, and without his outstanding heroics the Foxes would already been in the drop zone. Without a doubt clubs looking for a quality first team keeper will be circling the King Power stadium come June. The loss of Kante has proved to ultimately be one of the clubs biggest downfalls as the diminutive midfielder was the reason their defense was able to ward off the best in the Premier League. He cleaned up where Wes Morgan and Robert Huth failed too, not to mentioned intercepting attacks before they reached their defensive half proved more decisive than ever.
Their frailties have been brutally exposed this season, and Kante is now on course to become the first player to win the Premier League back to back with two different clubs. Just rewards for such a player. The majority of the squad have clearly lost the fire that drove them to the title. They achieved something they never thought possible in their wildest dreams and have clearly given up domestically as they only truly shine in the only competition they seem to care about; the Champions League. That is more of an indictment of the players psychology rather than a reflection of Ranieri who to his credit strove to do whatever he could to find the correct solution.
The players became complacent in the aftermath of their brilliant title win. Each was rewarded beyond their dreams, as each player was given a bumper contract, as well as BMW i8 worth $135,000 and this may be a major factor in this dip in work rate, as well as desire to fight. Conversely they have struggled to bounce back from being a goal down which has left them in such a poor manner. Additionally their transfer strategy failed to fill the void left by Kante, as well as shore area’s of weakness. Musa, Slimani, Mendy and Amartey have simply failed to shine as they were expected too and the team suffered as a result.
Ranieri & his legacy?
Ranieri will be remembered as Leicester’s greatest ever manager the club has ever had in their employ. This is without doubt and he will forever be popular with their fans, as evidence by their love and support of Ranieri as they continuously chanted his name weekly. No doubt a bronze statue will be erected to immortalise the club as well as his achievements. Despite the the poor performance of this season, it is unlikely that he will be associated with it and will continue to be a hero to their fans as he rightly should be. Ranieri is widely regarded as a gentleman and this reputation will undoubtedly continue for years to come.
After years of missing out on titles with the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Monaco he can now say with utter conviction that he rightly earned this title more than anybody else. Is he on the the pedestal of the highest echelon in football management today? Probably not but does not mean he didn’t deserve this victory. Ranieri will be forever remembered from all fans of the English football, not just Leicester fans as many rode the same dream to the title.
So where does the 65 year old go now? does he retire and allow the glory of his greatest sole achievement be the hallmark of his career?
One feels that the fire is still evident in him, unlike many of his former players who so let him down. Ranieri will simply pick himself up, dust himself off and look to for his next challenge as he has done so throughout his career.
This won’t be the last we will see the Tinkerman on the bench of a football club.