Roger Domeneghetti says the Foxes owe Ranieri a lot – but relegation certainly isn’t it
SO, FAREWELL Claudio, and thanks for the memories.
Somehow the decision to sack a man who is demonstrably no longer doing his job effectively has become a metaphor for all that is wrong with modern football.
And there was me thinking the paedophile rings operating unchecked in the game for years, or the endemic financial corruption (Fifa, transfer bungs, take your pick) or the racism that pours down from terraces across Europe or the rampant hooliganism that regularly mars the game, were bad.
No it’s that those bastards from Leicester, sacking the man who’s led the club into the relegation zone and overseen defeats in their last five league games without troubling the “goals for” column.
The so-called “experts” currently getting their knickers in a twist about Ranieri’s dismissal are the self same “experts” who lined up en masse in the summer of 2015 to decry the sacking of Nigel Pearson.
That, we were told, was an inexplicable decision from foreign, knownothing owners (no racism there, oh no…) while Ranieri’s appointment was a joke that would see him sacked before Christmas and Leicester relegated soon after.
Remind me, exactly how did that all work out again?
I grant you that Leicester wouldn’t have won the title without Ranieri. But they didn’t win it because of him alone.
The narrative now seems to be that Obi Wan Ranieri took over a pub team, performed a Jedi mind trick and turned them into worldbeaters. This, of course, is nonsense.
The Leicester City he inherited had topped the Premier League form table for the final quarter of the 2014- 15 season — by four points.
The season prior to that they had strolled to the Championship title accumulating a mammoth 102 points along the way. A head of steam was clearly building.
Ranieri capitalised on that by keeping Pearson’s back-room staff in place and making small but highly significant changes to tactics and first-team personnel — changes that those “experts” initially overlooked, telling us Leicester’s early form was merely a post-Pearson hangover. A
s they won the Premier League, Leicester’s squad stayed remarkably injury-free.
Because the force was with them? No, because of the work of a highly innovative medical team that was already in place before Ranieri arrived, coupled with a relatively light fixture list: 43 games in the whole of last season, already 39 so far this term with at least 14 still to come.
Couple this with a pre-season where they trotted round the globe like a boy band cashing in on the success of an unexpected smash hit and it is little wonder Leicester made such a slovenly start to the season.
But you know what? It was Ranieri’s job to ensure that didn’t happen and he failed. In the summer Ranieri was handed a sizeable transfer kitty.
But can anyone really say that Leicester’s squad has been improved? Luis Hernandez has already been shipped out; Bartosz Kaputska may as well be, having made just three appearances, all in the FA Cup; Ahmed Musa is patently not ready for the rigours of the Premier League.
And despite spending £30 million on two defensive midfielders, there is still an N’Golo Kanteshaped hole in midfield.
But for all the money shelled out, the money not spent is just as significant. Literally £0m was invested in strengthening the defence (Hernandez arrived on a free transfer) leaving Leicester with just three centre-backs, aged 32, 33 and 36, to endure arduous campaigns domestic and European without the imperious Kante shielding them. That had “disaster waiting to happen” written all over it.
But let’s not blame Obi Wan because we all know the villains of the piece are those bloody players, puffing on their fat cigars and too concerned about which gold-plated Ferrari to use for the commute to training.
But this doesn’t quite ring true either. If players can motivate and demotivate themselves at will then what’s the point of a manager? The reality is that it is the job of the man in the dugout to get the best out of his squad; to “manage” them, if you will. If that’s not happening, well…
Apparently Leicester “owe” Ranieri the season. Actually, they don’t. They owe him a lot: eternal gratitude for a wonderful, exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime roller-coaster ride; a 60-foot statue in place of the clock tower; the stadium renamed in his honour; and, now, a handsome pay-off.
What they don’t owe him is carte blanche to destroy all his own work and that of numerous others.
No matter what happened last season, Leicester City and its fans have the right to want to stay in the Premier League.
Furthermore, given the events of last season, the club and the fans have the right to think the title win might lead to sustained run of Premier League membership, not regular title campaigns but an improvement on what had been the norm prior to that.
Sadly for some months Ranieri has done a very good impression of someone who doesn’t share that ambition.
So, where is the logic in the idea that Leicester “owe” Ranieri the season? Do they just owe him this season, or do they owe him next season too? What if next season led to relegation to League One, would that be an acceptable “price” to pay for the title? Where would it end? Non-league obscurity?
It’s not Ranieri’s sacking that’s inexplicable but the patronising tone of the criticism it has sparked, the notion that somehow little Leicester should know their place and just be grateful, no matter what the ultimate cost.
That says far more about the problems in modern football than their manager’s departure.