Leicester City's Cinderella story is now complete. It clinched its improbable English Premier League title on Monday night when Chelsea came back from two goals down to tie Tottenham, 2-2, in an often
violent match that deprived Spurs of the three points it needed to stay in the title race.
Who saw the Leicester City championship coming when it hired Italian Claudio Ranieri
There is no Leicester City fan more famous than former England great Gary Lineker
, now English soccer's No. 1 pundit, and he was underwhelmed by the hiring of the
“Claudio Ranieri is clearly experienced," Lineker said of the appointment, "but this is an uninspired choice by Leicester."
The Foxes are the 16th
team Ranieri has coached in a 30-year coaching career. He won second division titles in Italy with Fiorentina and in France with Monaco, but except for a few other cup titles has had an
undistinguished coaching career.
Ranieri was coming off his first stint with a national team when Leicester City hired him. He took over Greece after its run to the second round at the
2014 World Cup, but it didn't win a game in six Euro 2016 qualifiers and he was fired after a home loss to the tiny Faeroe Islands. In firing Ranieri, Greek federation president Giorgos Sarris
took the blame for the "unfortunate choice of coaches."
Ranieri was a well-known quantity in England, where he spent four seasons at Chelsea without winning a title but the Blues improved
each season and became perennial league contenders under his successor, Jose Mourinho
, with many of the players he developed (John Terry
and Frank Lampard
, among others) or
spotted (Didier Drogba
). Terry captained Chelsea on Monday as it handed the EPL title to its former manager.
Four years after Mourinho took over at Chelsea, he ripped Ranieri: "He
is almost 70 years old. He's old and he hasn't won anything." One wonder what Mourinho has to say now. He was fired just before Christmas -- two days after Chelsea lost to Leicester City -- while
Ranieri is being hailed as a genius. More so than for players, coaches have a hard time earning respect.
"Let's not forget the reaction when he got the job," Sky Sports pundit Jamie
said on Monday Night Football. "He was laughed out of town, let's be honest. In the management game, there are very few people who are respected as winners and everyone else gets
slaughtered, but Ranieri has been around for 20 years and managed big players at top clubs and he has missed out on trophies and we don't accept that as being a top manager."
pundit, Alan Smith, said Ranieri deserves all the credit he's going to get for taking a team of no-name players and turning them into champions.
"Finally now, he may get the credit
he deserves," said Smith. "He will get the recognition because he has achieved something no other manager might. He will now never ever be forgotten and this story will be told in a hundred years time
because this is so rare. You can't quite believe this has happened. There has to be a statue for Ranieri in the morning."
Ranieri was in Italy visiting his 96-year-old mother on Monday
night. After the Chelsea-Tottenham game, he called Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink to thank him for Chelsea's second-half comeback. How effusive was Ranieri?
“I didn’t see
any tears," said Hiddink, "because it was not a Facetime conversation but his voice was trembling a bit. He said five-times thanks.”