End of the dream for jilted Le­ices­ter coach Ranieri

CityPress - - Sport - MONDLI MAKHANYA mondli.makhanya@city­press.co.za

Foot­ball coaches are not lov­able crea­tures. The in­stinct is never to give them a warm hug and pass them a choco­late bar.

De­scrip­tions that go with them in­clude be­ing cold, scary, fe­ro­cious, crazy, ec­cen­tric, stu­dious and ar­ro­gant. What­ever the case may be, they are nor­mally force­ful per­son­al­i­ties who do not in­vite af­fec­tion.

Clau­dio Ranieri de­fies this stereo­type. Over the past 18 months, the re­cently sacked man­ager of Le­ices­ter City wormed him­self into the hearts of foot­ball lovers the world over. He cut a grand­fa­therly fig­ure that some­times bordered on the clown­ish. One writer even com­pared him to an Ital­ian grand­dad in a cute pizza or pasta ad­vert.

The world’s love for Ranieri was to grow in leaps and bounds as he guided Le­ices­ter City to one of the most in­cred­i­ble fairy­tales in modern foot­ball his­tory.

His in­fec­tious joy that came with ev­ery goal scored and the leaps af­ter ev­ery vic­tory, or the im­prob­a­ble draws, made for in­deli­ble mem­o­ries for mil­lions of view­ers across the globe.

His press con­fer­ences were of­ten pep­pered with price­less quotes, which melted the hearts of the no­to­ri­ously vi­cious Bri­tish me­dia.

In con­trast to the philo­soph­i­cal musings of the Alex Fer­gu­sons and the hubris­tic com­ments of the José Mour­in­hos came his in­tel­li­gent, mean­ing­ful hu­mor­ous na­ture.

“My team is like an or­ches­tra. To play the sym­phony cor­rectly, I need some of the boom boom boom, but I also need some tweet, and some­times the tweet and boom go well to­gether ... Some­times all you can hear is the boom, some­times only the tweet. That is not good mu­sic,” was one mem­o­rable quote.

As the im­pos­si­ble be­came the pos­si­ble and Le­ices­ter seemed des­tined to em­bar­rass those who pre­dicted that they would run out of steam, he likened his team to the 1990s movie hero For­rest Gump.

“Why can’t we con­tinue to run, run, run? We are like For­rest Gump. Le­ices­ter is For­rest Gump,” he said.

Per­haps the ones that the press will miss most are the “dilly ding, dilly dong” quotes, such as the one when the dream was com­plete: “We are in the Cham­pi­ons League, dilly ding, dilly dong. It’s fan­tas­tic, ter­rific.”

As the world reeled af­ter news of his sack­ing this week, Ranieri on Fri­day night sent a mes­sage to his team and sup­port­ers.

“Yes­ter­day my dream died. Af­ter the eu­pho­ria of last sea­son and be­ing crowned Premier League cham­pi­ons, all I was dream­ing of was stay­ing at Le­ices­ter, the club I love for al­ways. Sadly, this was not to be.”

He spoke of his love for the team and the love he got from the sup­port­ers, who “took me into your hearts from day one”.

“It was a time of won­der­ful­ness and hap­pi­ness that I will never for­get. It’s been a plea­sure and an honour to be a cham­pion with all of you.”

The lev­els of anger gen­er­ated by Ranieri’s sack­ing would make one be­lieve Le­ices­ter was again in the race for top hon­ours rather than lan­guish­ing in the rel­e­ga­tion zone with five wins and 14 losses from 25 games.

With the sea­son’s end on the hori­zon – and games against big guns Liv­er­pool, Arse­nal, Ever­ton, Tot­ten­ham and Manch­ester City – rel­e­ga­tion is a re­al­ity.

In spite of Ranieri be­ing the con­duc­tor of last sea­son’s great or­ches­tra, the man­age­ment had no choice.

He clearly had no idea how to again in­stil the spirit of 2015/16, and he also seemed to have lost the change room that so be­lieved in him less than 12 months ago.

Even the fans were di­vided, with many say­ing he should have been re­tained even if it meant go­ing to the lower divi­sion and work­ing back to the Premier League.

Af­ter his sack­ing, there were calls for the Le­ices­ter sta­dium to be named af­ter him and for a statue of him to be erected there.

One of the mil­lions who mourned the end of Ranieri’s dream was a man who was also sacked as cham­pion when Chelsea lost its groove a few sea­sons ago.

Mour­inho took to In­sta­gram to praise Ranieri for achiev­ing the “most beau­ti­ful thing in the Premier League, and one of most beau­ti­ful in foot­ball his­tory”.

“Keep smil­ing, am­ico,” Mour­inho en­cour­aged the jilted Ital­ian.

RE­GAN / GETTY IMAGES PHOTO: MICHAEL

ADIOS Clau­dio Ranieri was fired as man­ager of Le­ices­ter City

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