Claudio Ranieri has never quite been given the plaudits his managerial pedigree should have earned him. When he was appointed last July by Leicester City, the critics came out in full force. The evidence cited as to Ranieri’s inadequacy for the job generally centered around his failed short stint as manager of the Greece national team in late 2014. Often forgotten was the massive success Ranieri has had in top flight European leagues. He’s never won a league title, but has been close, generally getting clubs to punch above their weight. This season in leading the Foxes into the title fight just one year after barely avoiding relegation, he’s proving his worth yet again.
Ranieri’s string of second place finishes in major European leagues over the last 12 years have all been with sides not fancied to win the title that season. Let’s look back at each of them.
Ranieri had solidified the Blues place as an elite English club during his tenure, but the 2003 takeover by Roman Abramovich changed expectations. Ranieri spent approximately £115 million on new players during the summer transfer period. Chelsea broke a club record for most points in a top-flight campaign that season and conceded the fewest goals in Blues history. But it was the year of the Arsenal invincibles, and Chelsea finished second. Ranieri was sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho who won the next two Premier League titles.
Ranieri took Juve, who had just been promoted to Serie A following a season in Serie B due to the Calciopoli scandal, finished a strong 3rd in the league during 2007-2008 and qualified for the following season’s UEFA Champions League. The rapid return to Europe’s top competition provided Ranieri with plaudits. The following season he guided Juventus to the knockout stages of the Champions League, winning a group that included Real Madrid. The club also stayed at the top or near the top of Serie A table for most of the season.
However, in the Round of 16, they were eliminated by Chelsea, Ranieri’s former club. That was followed by a war of words in the Italian media with Jose Mourinho who had replaced Ranieri as the Blues boss and was now leading Inter. Juventus bottled it down the stretch with the war of words simmering and while they finished second, a ten-point gap with Mourinho’s Inter led to Ranieri’s sacking.