Belfast Telegraph

Quiet Claudio Ranieri has painted all new route to success


By Ian Herbert

There is choreography and artifice in all managers - even Claudio Ranieri. He's far more relaxed in England than in Italy, where you'll find him more serious, sometimes angry.

He also has a tendency to use his own mother, Renata, as a device to deflate pressure. The 96-year-old, who he swept off to lunch in Rome on Monday, was 84 when he declared her to be a Damien Duff fan and a useful tactical influence during his time managing Chelsea.

But Ranieri's conformity to modern Premier League games ends there, because what we have witnessed in the last nine months is something exceptionally different; the triumph of quiet in a place where it had become almost entirely unknown.

Noise - and ego - had hitherto become the essential characteristic of Premier League management and an absence of such a perceived weakness.

The ultimate vessel of noise was Jose Mourinho, picking his battles week by week on his way to last season's title; making the whole world an imagined enemy of Chelsea so that the team could coalesce against such a fiction.

It became the received wisdom that the manager who did not question a decision, scream, or tap a wristwatch on a touchline was inherently weak.

It was Sunday February 14, 2016, which showed a different way. Leicester had just played against Arsenal with 10 men for more than half an hour, conceded to Danny Welbeck in the 95th minute and lost 2-1.

Ranieri did not hide dismay over Danny Simpson's dismissal yet his press conference was delivered with calm and equanimity. The interior calm allowed Ranieri to think. He sent away his players, who had no FA Cup tie the following weekend, for a week off. They returned to take 19 points out of the next 21.

Of course, the problem with the mighty ego is that it creates a managerial need to be perceived as a visionary agent of change.

Sticking with your inheritance can't form part of the story because it might look weak and if success comes early, your predecessor might claim some credit. Well, Nigel Pearson actually should take some of the credit.

He is currently waiting for a Championship job when he recruited most of the Leicester side who drew at Old Trafford on Sunday. Leicester winning seven of last season's concluding nine games and finishing 14th matters more than Pearson's occasional unpleasantness.

Ranieri was willing to work with what Pearson bequeathed: going with the flow where required, among a group of footballers who had become empowered to speak up. Perhaps that comes with being a 64-year-old.

The adaptations were the necessary ones: throwing out Pearson's three-man defence and embedding Danny Drinkwater in the side. The Italian also had the mental space to use the intelligence of Pearson's backroom team - joint assistant manager Steve Walsh and assistant manager Craig Shakespeare.

Ranieri's lack of interest in dominating enabled him to avoid the usual routine of showing the last bloke's assistants the door.

To the bitter end yesterday, Mourinho made it all about him. "It is with incredible emotion that I live this magic moment in his career," he said of Ranieri, which didn't make much sense.

Ranieri was kicked out of Chelsea to make way for the younger man 12 years ago but now he has made his utterances sound like those of yesterday's man. The quiet man has won through.

Belfast Telegraph


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