Claudio Ranieri possesses the perfect CV to handle Fulham, the Premier League’s backside membership.
The Italian can boast charisma, expertise of managing on the highest degree for over 30 years, the flexibility to work with demanding house owners, a knack of successful over even probably the most sceptical supporters and, maybe most significantly, he additionally has a giant tick within the field marked “sporting miracles.”
At 67, there’s little that Ranieri has not encountered, however his title success with Leicester Metropolis in 2015-16 — when the 5000-1 outsiders won the league for the primary time within the membership’s historical past — ensures that he will all the time be remembered for reaching the not possible. He has managed Chelsea, Inter, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, however that unforgettable season of glory on the King Energy Stadium will in the end outline his profession.
Nonetheless, as he prepares to take cost of a Premier League recreation this weekend for the primary time since being sacked by Leicester in February 2017, Ranieri has the chance to prove he is greater than only a miracle employee: Can he produce a unique form of alchemy at Craven Cottage and mastermind an ideal escape?
He’s placing his status on the road and the prospect of being relegated dangers tarnishing the reminiscence of success at Leicester, however the flip facet is that he may additionally stroll away having proved himself to be a really nice manager, one who can encourage gamers at each ends of the desk to beforehand surprising heights.
Fulham, who had been promoted by way of the playoffs final season, are in determined want of one thing to keep away from going straight again down: Ranieri’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked by proprietor Shahid Khan after overseeing only one win — mixed with 9 defeats — within the opening 12 league video games of the season.
A house recreation towards fourth-bottom Southampton, managed by ex-Fulham boss Mark Hughes, gives the prospect for Ranieri to hit the bottom working; victory would inject prompt optimism all through his squad. It additionally could be wanted, given the video games that comply with are towards two of his outdated golf equipment, Chelsea and Leicester, and Manchester United.
Regardless of the picture he projected at Leicester — the affable, joking “dilly-ding, dilly-dong” old-stager — he is a hard-headed product of his upbringing, fairly than a footballing dreamer. Fundamental ideas, Ranieri insisted at his introductory press convention, will be central to his makes an attempt to preserve Fulham up, fairly than outdated recollections.
“Leicester was a fairy story, however we want to neglect,” Ranieri stated. “If I’ve one high quality, it’s to neglect what occurred yesterday. I look all the time ahead. I feel now’s vital to not take into consideration miracles, however take into consideration a whole lot of battles and be prepared collectively.”
Ranieri instantly recognized the areas through which enchancment have to be made.
“Fulham have conceded a whole lot of targets (31 in 12 video games) and I’m an Italian manager, so for us, it is vital to keep the clear sheet. I want preventing spirit as a result of, with high quality and preventing spirit we are able to do good job.”
Whereas Ranieri may not want to dwell upon the previous, and it’s true that pursuing a title is markedly completely different from preventing relegation, there are placing similarities between the squad he inherited at Leicester and the gamers at his disposal now. It’s why his new problem is so intriguing.
Can he take rising stars akin to Ryan Sessegnon and goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli to a better degree? Can he re-ignite Aleksandar Mitrovic’s objective contact? Is there a defender who might be his Wes Morgan? Can Kevin McDonald and Tom Cairney grow to be as constant as had been Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton?
At Leicester, Ranieri imposed his strategies and located a manner to dredge the most effective from all of his gamers. He positioned belief within the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante — each of whom had been ignored by larger golf equipment — and was rewarded spectacularly by each. Jamie Vardy, in the meantime, scored constantly on the high degree, having been enjoying nonleague simply 4 years earlier.
Each high manager has had his document questioned by those that ask how properly he would do accountable for a crew on the backside of the desk. Hardly any face the problem of discovering out, though Rafael Benitez has proven at Newcastle that an elite manager, who has coached on the very highest degree, can obtain relative success decrease down.
However Ranieri’s title with Leicester means he should shoulder a heavier burden with Fulham than merely having a successful monitor document. If he could make the not possible occur once more, not solely will it reaffirm his earlier achievements, however it will function additional proof of his elite status.