52 minutes into the tie between Genoa and Roma at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Rodrigo Palacio nets what looks like a mere consolation goal. Roma are still 3-1 up and look like breaking their three-game losing streak. But by the end of the match the Grifone have stolen all three points from the Giallorossi after achieving a jaw-dropping comeback, Palacio and Alberto Paloschi having combined to give Genoa a win by four goals to three.
That evening, Roma manager Claudio Ranieri tenders his resignation, and by the next day he has gone, with the club’s former striker Vincenzo Montella being handed the reins. So concluded another chapter in Ranieri’s coaching career, in which most of his jobs have ended in disappointment. Sacked at Napoli, jumped before he was pushed at Atletico Madrid then axed at Chelsea, Valencia and Juventus prior to his dismissal at the weekend.
Looking back on his final few weeks in the Eternal City, it is hard to see how he could have turned i Lupi’s dismal run around. The defeat at Genoa was their fourth on the trot. Before that game, any hopes optimistic fans had of leapfrogging the likes of Milan, Napoli, Inter and rivals Lazio to the Scudetto were crushed by losses against the Nerazzurri and the Neapolitans. Then the woes of the Roma tifosi were compounded when Shakhtar Donetsk triumphed 3-2 at the Stadio Olimpico. However, the Tinkerman, so called because of his sometimes confusing tactical changes midway through matches, has been unlucky in many instances in his career. In 1992 he took Napoli to fourth place but the following season the axe fell. In 1999 he joined Atletico Madrid – at precisely the wrong time. As they entered administration and teetered over the relegation zone, the Italian resigned before trigger-happy president Jesus Gil could sack him.
Chelsea was his next stop, and the positive effects of his tenure are still being felt at the club today. He signed Frank Lampard, now a talisman at the club, and brought through current captain John Terry from the academy, as well as buying many other key figures of Mourinho’s Chelsea. The Blues went from strength to strength and in his final year at the Bridge – the first year in the Abramovich era – the team came second in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Achievements like those would have been seen by any other club of Chelsea’s stature at that time as well on the way to silverware. But oligarch Abramovich saw the chance to recruit Jose Mourinho, the young Porto boss with the Midas touch, and so fired Ranieri. The Roman’s exploits in 2004 are even more remarkable given that the Chelsea president had been undermining him right from the start of the season, meeting with Sven-Goran Eriksson only days after his takeover of the club.
In the summer of 2007, Ranieri joined Juventus and guided them to third in the league – not bad for a club in their first season back in Serie A following demotion. Alas, due to a bad run of form, he was once again given his marching orders. The Old Lady’s results under Ranieri don’t look so bad now that all three of his successors to date (Ferrara, Zaccheroni and Delneri) have failed to secure a place in the top four for the Bianconeri. Since his dismissal, the team have languished in 6th and 7th spots, which quite simply shows us that he did pretty well with what he had, which quite clearly wasn’t much.
The past 20 years have not all been tinged with disappointment. Ranieri got Fiorentina promoted to Serie A and proceeded to win the 1996 Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana. On his return to the peninsula in 2007 he steered relegation-fodder Parma to safety, and eight years earlier he won the Copa del Rey with Valencia. Nevertheless, it is hard not to feel sorry for Claudio, of whom Mourinho said: “He… has the mentality of one who does not need to win and at almost 70 years of age has won a Super Cup and another small cup.” One feels sympathy, not just because, apart from Mourinho deliberately getting his age wrong (Ranieri is 59), the Special One is correct. It is also because, while the Tinkerman has only lifted five major trophies and no league titles, he could have done much more had he been given the chance. In his first spell at the Mestalla he was well on his way to even greater success with Valencia before he moved to Chelsea. In London he was near to winning the league, and was unfortunate to have his time at the club coincide with the takeover by an impatient oil magnate and the emergence of a truly magnificent manager who took his place. And in Turin he would have consolidated third place in Serie A at the very least, something that Juventini up and down the country must be wishing for right now.
The future looks uncertain for Claudio Ranieri. The Roma role seemed like a dream job – the ex-Chelsea boss supports i Lupi and used to play for them. And let us not forget that in his first season at the helm of the capital club he took them from the foot of the table to within a whisker of the title. At Chelsea and Juventus he could well have gone on to win big had he been given another year or two. For any club looking to grow over the course of a few seasons until they are winning major honours, or even a fallen giant looking to return to former glories, Ranieri could be the man. But the magical ingredient for winning under him is time. Provide that and success should follow.