Roma’s climb to the top of the Italian Serie A shows that in a time of loud-mouthed individuals shouting obscenities, there is still place for a quiet, peace-loving man like Claudio Ranieri.
It is very hard to assess the season Roma have had so far, without becoming overtly praise-worthy and losing one’s sense of objectivity. This is after all, a side that had lost half of its first 10 games and was 14 points from the top of the table. Ranieri, who had been unceremoniously dumped by Juventus in the previous season, had every Romanista baying for his blood after the Giallorossi lost three games in a row. The Tinkerman’s tactics were written off by every major daily, and the end of his tenure was said to be coming ever closer.
Despite the wall of abuse thrown at him, Ranieri, the butt of most jokes, kept doing what his job in the best possible way.
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The loss to Udinese, however, turned things around in such dramatic fashion that even the most loyal of Il Lupi’s fans was left astounded.
Like the Romans of old, the team found strength during the most difficult of times, and has since rallied on, laying waste to all that have stood before them.
This fantastical transition from a team contemplating a relegation battle at one point to league leaders in a matter of little over five months, is indeed justice for a man who has always been written off for being too kind.
The Almost Man
Ranieri has been in management for the best part of the last two decades, and yet it is only now that he is beginning to gain acclaim for his managerial achievements. But truth be told, the Roman has always been an excellent tactician, but has suffered from the ‘almost’ syndrome.
His first successful managerial stint at Valencia saw him achieve tremendous success with the team as he steered Los Che to qualification for the Champions League and Copa Del Rey glory. The players he brought in during his tenure would go on to become the backbone of the side which would win two La Liga titles.
At Chelsea, Ranieri also had a similar experience, as the Italian invested smartly in the transfer market. Players like Frank Lampard, William Gallas, Claude Makélélé, and Arjen Robben were brought in by him.
He was greatly responsible for turning the Chelsea side from a ‘Top 10’ side to a ‘Big Four’ side.
His return to Italian football in 2007 saw him achieve the impossible. He saved Parma from relegation when they looked doomed already. The savior of Parma was soon called up by Juventus, who had only just returned to Serie A after the Calciopoli penalties.
His time at Juventus was a mixed bag in many regards.
The first season he did very well, guiding the side to a third-place finish. After Jose Mourinho arrived at Inter in the summer of 2008, he seemed to be under more pressure than usual.
A set of bad results saw him illogically sacked with just two games remaining in the season.
The Bianconeri will be most definitely ruing their decision to let him go, after seeing the current state of their side. Ranieri’s revival of Roma has a lot to do with the fact that there was very little expected of him, and he was allowed the freedom to conduct the team in his own style.
A Roman Holiday Ranieri arrived in Rome when the club was dealing with Luciano Spalletti’s resignation amidst a growing financial crisis. The team had been unable to make any purchases during the summer, and had sold one of their best talents in Alberto Aquilani to Liverpool in the hope of balancing their books.
Ranieri’s brief was to only steady the ship and restore some stability to the club. It took some time for the Roman to settle into his new, yet highly familiar, surroundings.
And as mentioned earlier, the team was at its lowest ebb following the defeat to Udinese.
One of the remarkable features about his time at Roma has been the way in which Ranieri has salvaged the players around him. Mirko Vucinic is having an incredible season, and has already scored the same number of goals this term that he managed in the past two.
Jérémy Menez has seemingly rediscovered his love for the game, after an off-colour first season with the Giallorossi. Nicolas Burdisso, a fringe player at Inter, has been transformed into one of the league’s best defenders.
Most importantly, Ranieri has allowed the team to express itself, but kept an eye on the back four at the same time. The leaky defence of Spalletti is no longer visible. Instead, a tough uncompromising rearguard has taken its place.
Roma still have a long way to go in the Championship.
This Sunday’s clash with Lazio may well see them drop back into second place, but no one can take away what the team has achieved in recent months.
Varun Mathure is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, the open source sports network.