Commentary

'Time of wonderfulness' ends for Ranieri

The callous sacking of Claudio Ranieri by Leicester City, unfortunately, puts him in very good company. Four of the five previous managers to win the English Premier League title either left at the end of the following season, were sacked during that season, or in the case of Sir Alex Ferguson, retired.
 
Here’s the list of each season’s champions and what eventually happened to the manager:
 
2011-12: Manchester City fired Roberto Mancini in May, 2013.
2012-13: Ferguson retired after leading Manchester United to the title.
2013-14: Manuel Pellegrini left in May, 2015.
2014-15: Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho in December, 2015.
2015-16: Leicester City fired Claudio Ranieri Feb. 23.
 

That’s an esteemed lineup of managers and ambitious clubs leading up to the amazing run of Leicester City, much more a relegation candidate than championship contender and rated at 5,000-1 to win the title when the season kicked off in August, 2015. As the ultimate overachievers, the Foxes captivated fans and journalists around the world as week after they week they cranked out points in a fiercely competitive, intensely scrutinized competition.

Just nine months later, despite reaching the Champions League round of 16 and losing the first leg narrowly 2-1 in Sevilla on Wednesday, Leicester City yanked open the trap door.

Its position in 17th place, just one slot above the relegation zone, triggered a decision widely decried yet explained in a straightforward manner by the team.

“This has been the most difficult decision we have had to make in nearly seven years,” a statement from the club’s vice-chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, said. “But we are duty-bound to put the club’s long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be.

“Claudio has brought outstanding qualities to his office. His skillful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring to Leicester City His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale.

“We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve. It was never our expectation that the extraordinary feats of last season should be replicated this season. Indeed, survival in the Premier League was our first and only target. But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximize the opportunity presented by the final 13 games.”

The recent results have certainly been grim. Leicester hasn’t scored a league goal this calendar year and in the last six games has garnered just one point. It is in real danger of becoming the first English team since Manchester City in 1938 to suffer relegation after winning the top-flight title.

In changing managers midseason, timing is everything. Leicester City lost last weekend at Swansea City, 2-0, and with that victory -- a third win in the last five games -– the Swans moved three points ahead of Leicester into 15th place. When they fired Bob Bradley as manager in late December, the Swans were in 19th and ownership said fear of relegation forced its hand.

Leicester City hosts Liverpool Monday and next weekend is at home again to bottom-dweller Hull City. Clearly the ownership -- despite its vote of confidence in Ranieri just two weeks ago -- wasn’t confident of getting enough points from two crucial home games with him in charge.

So ends an extraordinary tale. Ranieri’s hiring in the summer of 2015 surprised many, as his previous stint in England ended badly at Chelsea -- he got the sack shortly after Roman Abramovich took charge -- and, ironically, predecessor Nigel Pearson had just rescued Leicester City from relegation by steering it to seven victories in its last nine games.

Pearson’s resignation in a dispute with management set in motion a saga that seemed rooted in a bygone era, before global corporations and foreign billionaires took over a league steeped in a tradition since it began operations in 1888. Working-class Leicester City toppled the elitists, led by a modest, sensible man who liked to spend his off days lunching with his mother back in his native Italy.

As he had done since the day he was hired, Ranieri showed his class in a farewell statementto the club and its fans. Leicester City will always have its magical season to treasure but the aftermath is forever soured by how it betrayed the faith and trust of a man, a team, and its fans that had given so much.

4 comments about "'Time of wonderfulness' ends for Ranieri".
  1. Quarterback TD, February 24, 2017 at 8:50 p.m.

    From a business perspective It really comes down to relegation possibility. And most definitely they would have been relegated but management had to do something drastic like what Swansea did and change coaches. On the flip side the team never found a replacement for N'Golo and the players were not playing at the same level as when they won. This could go either direction and depending on the end result it will justify the means.. But this is a cinderalla story that had a great ending but a bad sequel that is still being played out..

  2. R2 Dad replied, February 25, 2017 at 5:26 p.m.

    Kante was definitely the glue that held everything together. That, and teams decided to give them the ball and counter the snot out of them. Arsenal showed how to do it last year but it took an off-season for everyone to figure it out. Feel bad for Ranieri--maybe he should have bailed given the poor track record listed above.

  3. Allan Lindh, February 24, 2017 at 9:17 p.m.

    We'll see how the players feel about it when we see how many leave come summer. I personally think they are crazy to pull the plug on a man that not only led them to the top, but was -- I suspect -- beloved of the players. To think that someone else can scare them into playing harder is just a stupid reflex IMHO. Now I hope they go down.

  4. Bob Ashpole, February 25, 2017 at 2:23 p.m.

    Sadly the owners fire coaches for failing to meet the owners' expectations using the players that the owners provide. Some people think management is the art of controlling information so that they always look good rather than leading a team to successful completion of an endeavor. Rarely will management in any industry recognize their own mistakes and accept responsibility. Coaches understand that this is the nature of the job, but that doesn't mean that it is right or smart.

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