Will own­ers stick by Tinker­man?

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY MARK OG­DEN

CLAU­DIO RANIERI HAS been around the block enough times as a man­ager to know that past per­for­mance is more com­fort blan­ket than bul­let-proof vest when it comes to job se­cu­rity.

The Le­ices­ter City man­ager is cur­rently in his 16th man­age­rial po­si­tion since start­ing out with the Ital­ian am­a­teurs, Vigor Lamezia, in 1986 and the ma­jor­ity of his jobs have ended with the sack.

Chelsea, Va­len­cia, Parma, Roma, Ju­ven­tus, In­ter Mi­lan and Greece all dis­pensed with Ranieri fol­low­ing a run of poor re­sults and he only saved him­self from the sack at Atletico Madrid in 2000 by re­sign­ing be­fore no­to­ri­ous owner Je­sus Gil pulled the rug from be­neath him.

For­tu­nately for the Ital­ian, who cel­e­brates his 65th birth­day to­day, Le­ices­ter’s Thai own­ers felt so in­debted to him for guid­ing the club to the Pre­mier League ti­tle last sea­son that they signed off a new four-year con­tract in Au­gust, ty­ing Ranieri (pix) to the King Power Sta­dium un­til 2020.

Will Ranieri still be in charge at Le­ices­ter in June 2020? Prob­a­bly not, judg­ing by the im­pa­tience of mod­ern-day foot­ball club own­ers.

But for Le­ices­ter’s im­pres­sive start to life in the Cham­pi­ons League – vic­tory over FC Copen­hagen on Tues­day leav­ing them just one point from se­cur­ing a place in the knock­out stages – Ranieri would prob­a­bly al­ready be bracing him­self for a knock on the door due to a se­ries of heavy de­feats in the Pre­mier League which have left the reign­ing cham­pi­ons lan­guish­ing in 13th po­si­tion, a point ahead of pro­moted Burn­ley.

The good news for Ranieri is that Le­ices­ter’s own­ers have been a breath of fresh air in English foot­ball since buy­ing out Mi­lan Man­daric to take con­trol of the club in Au­gust 2010.

Since ap­point­ing Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son as man­ager in Oc­to­ber 2010, owner Vichai Sri­vad­dhanapra- bha has been a model of re­straint, stand­ing by Eriks­son’s suc­ces­sor, Nigel Pear­son, for three-and-a-half years be­fore turn­ing to Ranieri in the sum­mer of 2015.

Yet suc­cess can af­fect own­ers just as much as fail­ure and Ranieri made him­self vul­ner­a­ble the mo­ment his Le­ices­ter team crossed the line in the ti­tle race last sea­son, even he in­sisted on Satur­day that he is “not wor­ried” about his job and that “work, work, work” is the so­lu­tion.

Once an owner has tasted cham­pagne, they tend to want more, but it has been back to flat beer with heavy de­feats at Liver­pool (4-1), Manchester United (4-1) and the 3-0 de­feat at Chelsea at the week­end.

It gets to them all in the end. Jack Walker sacked man­ager af­ter man­ager at Black­burn as a re­sult of their fail­ure to repli­cate Kenny Dal­glish’s suc­cess at Ewood Park, while Ro­man Abramovich has taken it to another level at Chelsea – Carlo Ancelotti was sacked less than a year af­ter win­ning the dou­ble while Roberto di Mat­teo went six months af­ter win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League.

So will Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha be any dif­fer­ent? Will last sea­son’s re­mark­able suc­cess in­su­late Ranieri from the fate so many have suf­fered else­where?

That is a ques­tion yet to be an­swered, but hav­ing won the hearts of the Le­ices­ter pub­lic dur­ing his six years in charge, Sri­vad­dhanaprabha now has the op­por­tu­nity to prove he is dif­fer­ent from the rest by al­low­ing Ranieri and his team the time to re­dis­cover last sea­son’s magic for­mula.

The prob­lem, how­ever, is that Sri­vad­dhanaprabha has done lit­tle to dis­pel the per­cep­tion that he quite en­joys the re­flected glow of suc­cess on the pitch.

Would a wise owner re­ally have al­lowed his im­age to be the cen­tre­piece of the front page of the match pro­gramme for last month’s Cham­pi­ons League fix­ture at home to FC Porto, was?

Hav­ing seem­ingly claimed the Pre­mier League tro­phy as his own, with Sri­vad­dhanaprabha and his son, Le­ices­ter vice-chair­man Aiyawatt Sri­vad­dhanaprabha, hog­ging the sil­ver­ware on the pitch fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion last sea­son, will the re­cent run of Pre­mier League hor­ror shows have been re­ceived with an ac­cep­tance that it was al­ways go­ing to be so much harder this sea­son?

Ranieri’s luke­warm re­ac­tion to Sri­vad­dhanaprabha giv­ing each of the ti­tle-win­ning squad a blue £100,000 BMW sports car at the start of the sea­son, as a re­ward for the Pre­mier League tri­umph, hinted at the Ital­ian’s re­al­i­sa­tion that he and his team would have to as Sri­vad­dhanaprabha keep de­liv­er­ing this term to en­able the owner to con­tinue to en­joy the spot­light.

But hav­ing in­vested close to £80m in his squad since the end of last sea­son, in­clud­ing the club record £29.7m spent on Sport­ing Lis­bon for­ward Is­lam Sli­mani, Ranieri has strug­gled to of­fer an in­di­ca­tion that last year’s mir­a­cle could be re­peated.

Le­ices­ter can no longer de­fend prop­erly, Riyad Mahrez only per­forms un­der the bright lights of the Cham­pi­ons League, Jamie Vardy’s hot-streak has cooled and the owner’s heli­copter is no longer fly­ing on cloud nine.

Ranieri knows the road ahead, though. That is why he will now be look­ing over his shoul­der. – The In­de­pen­dent

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