Claudio Ranieri and Roma: The story of an unbreakable bond

Claudio Ranieri is the kind of person who means a lot to many different groups of people, for the impact he has had on football.

After confirming his retirement from management, Ranieri can look back fondly on a career in which he won various promotions and honours, perhaps most memorably the miracle of leading Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2015-16.

But while that unthinkable achievement will likely be how the wider football world remembers his input into the sport, Roma fans will always hold dear the indelible bond he had with their own club.

Ranieri was born in Rome in 1951, going on to be raised as a Roma fan. A dream opportunity fell his way when the club he supported signed him as a teenager. Although he was spotted as an attacker, he converted into a defender during his developmental phase at Roma.

In November 1973, Ranieri made the first of six Serie A appearances for his hometown club. Manlio Scopigno was the coach who gave him his debut, but the other appearances would come under Nils Liedholm, who had just arrived for the first chapter of his legendary connection with the club. Unfortunately, though, Ranieri would not be part of Roma’s long-term plans as a player.

He embarked on a lengthy spell with Catanzaro, establishing himself in Serie B and helping them into Serie A, and also won promotions with Catania and Palermo (to the first tier and the second tier respectively) in what remained of his playing days.

Ranieri retired from playing in 1986, some 12 years after he had left Roma. Another 23 years later, he got the chance to return to his beloved club as head coach.

By this point, Ranieri had established himself as an esteemed manager, having taken Cagliari from the third tier to Serie A via two consecutive promotions, earned ascension to the top flight with Fiorentina, and also managed the likes of Chelsea, Valencia (winning European trophies there) and Juventus.

Embed from Getty Images

Ranieri’s Roma reign began in the wake of the resignation of Luciano Spalletti, a coach who had established the club as consistent contenders for – but never quite the clinchers of – the Scudetto. In the background, there were fears about the future of the club due to their perilous financial situation.

Unafraid of making big and bold decisions – such as taking Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi off at half time of a Rome derby – Ranieri steadied the ship and steered it towards bigger landmarks than expected. For most of his first season in charge, Roma were in a genuine title race. Although they had often finished as runners up under Spalletti, the way Ranieri guided them back towards that territory – especially considering the context – was a major accomplishment. But for a bit of luck, Roma could have won their fourth Scudetto in 2010, but it wasn’t to be. Top of the table with five games left, they ultimately finished two points behind Jose Mourinho’s Inter, who also beat them in the Coppa Italia final.

Later that summer, Inter again denied Ranieri a trophy with Roma in the Supercoppa Italiana. It was the precursor to a more challenging 2010-11 season, which would culminate in Ranieri stepping down in February.

The experienced manager went on to endure spells in various countries, with his return to English football with Leicester obviously standing out as the most notable. In the 2018-19 season, he spent some time back in the Premier League with Fulham, but was sacked after a short reign. Little did he know at the time that he would complete the season with a second spell in charge of Roma.

After the disastrous summer 2018 transfer window, Roma had undone their progress towards being a Champions League semi-final outfit just a few months before. Although not entirely his fault, Eusebio Di Francesco lost his job in the wake of elimination from the same competition in the round of 16 in the next edition. Judging by their standing in Serie A, things looked bleak for Roma.

Ranieri returned on a contract to see out the season, the message being the same as it was at the outset of his first reign: steady the ship. He had 12 games in which to do so.

Although there were still signs of the same weaknesses that had set Roma back, generally things felt sturdier under Ranieri. One highlight was a win over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, for example, towards the end of the season. Ranieri ultimately steered Roma to a sixth-place finish. A fraction of the fanbase felt he even deserved a crack at another season.

Ranieri’s return did only last the 12 games initially scheduled, but he restored some confidence within the club, even if they failed to progress under his successor Paulo Fonseca.

Ranieri retained the utmost respect of Roma fans, who paid homage to him at his final game – which was also De Rossi’s emotional farewell as a Giallorossi player – by unfurling a banner from the Curva Sud, thanking him for taking on the challenge for his people in their time of need.

Spells with Sampdoria (where he again replaced Di Francesco), Watford and Cagliari completed his career, the latter fittingly after his past association with them. He called time on his career after winning promotion with the Sardinians and then keeping them up in Serie A.

Cagliari, like Leicester, have major reason to feel grateful to Ranieri. What he did with those two clubs will stand out in the legacy he has left.

But ask the man himself, and Roma will always be the club he is most deeply connected to.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.