When he took over Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City side which, despite the Great Escape of 2014/15, had spent most of the previous season at the foot of the Premier League, nobody believed that within 10 months his team would be Premier League champions, a feat universally described as one of the greatest stories in sporting history,
Ranieri had already managed 14 clubs, including Cagliari, Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Monaco. At Leicester he used this vast experience to build wisely onto the foundations set by Pearson, Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, whose recruitment had unearthed such stars as Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté. Ranieri also benefited from high quality staff at the training ground and from the outstanding team spirit amongst the players.
The Italian guided Leicester City to the 2015/16 Premier League title in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Ranieri’s initial target of gaining 40 points to avoid relegation was modest. By October the Club was third in the table. Jamie Vardy broke the Premier League record by scoring in 11 successive games. The team entered the New Year at the top of the table, level on points with Arsenal. The momentum was continued by a constant stream of memorable goals and results such as Vardy’s unforgettable half-volley against Liverpool and the defeat of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Ranieri’s press conferences featuring such quotes as ‘if they keep a clean sheet, I’ll buy a pizza for everybody’ and ‘dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up, wake up!' made him a media favourite.
A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford with two games to go until the end of the season was followed the next day by Tottenham’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea, a result which confirmed Leicester City’s title. The fans partied through the night. The next game, at home against Everton, was preceded by day-long celebrations. There was sunshine, rain, Andrea Bocelli’s outstanding singing before the game, fireworks, a guard of honour by the Everton players, a 3-1 victory and the iconic trophy lift. The celebrations continued into the final game of the season, a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Ranieri’s team had won the title by 10 points, a massive achievement. The open top celebratory bus tour culminating in Victoria Park attracted 240,000 fans. Murals depicting Ranieri and the team appeared around the city.
Ranieri saw his side lose just three games during his first Premier League season as City manager.
Ranieri’s achievement made him Premier League Manager of the Year, LMA Manager of the Year, European Coach of the Year, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (coach award) and the best FIFA Football Coach. He was also inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.
His team’s profile was raised by being invited to participate in the International Champions Cup in 2016, and he successfully led the Club to be group winners in the Champions League en route to the quarter-finals. However, poor league form resulted in him leaving the Club in February 2017. He has since managed Nantes, Fulham and Roma and is currently in charge of Sampdoria.
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