After winning the Premier League title with Leicester City in 2016, everything will naturally feel like an anti-climax for Claudio Ranieri. Since this miraculous feat, spells with Nantes and Fulham have, inevitably, failed to re-create the same dizzying heights.
Having lost seven of their last eight games, including a humiliating defeat to Oldham Athletic, the Fulham board called time on the Italian’s Craven Cottage tenure. He leaves the club sitting in nineteenth place, ten points adrift of safety with ten league games remaining.
Lightning Never Strikes Twice
Although Ranieri inherited a struggling side, he failed to rediscover his golden touch. When he was appointed in November, Fulham looked out of ideas, vulnerable and destined for relegation.
Theoretically, if anyone were to engineer an unlikely turnaround then it would have been Claudio Ranieri, but the Cottagers situation only deteriorated. In Leicester City’s title-winning season, everything he touched turned to gold but, like King Midas, it has come to haunt him.
Any managerial venture that Ranieri embarks upon will invariably be in the shadow of his heroics with Leicester. The Fulham job was a brave move due to the sizeable amount of expectation heaped upon him. He saw the potential of a side brimming with talent and potential, yet failed to take them anywhere but backwards.
From Hero to Zero
Claudio Ranieri’s time at Leicester City will always be used as a reference point, but Fulham fans will particularly look at his time at Craven Cottage in isolation. Upon doing so, they will identify tactical inaptitude and questionable decision-making.
The ‘Tinkerman’ has always been known for his unorthodox methods and colourful personality. While they have proven successful in the past they have also, such as in Fulham’s case, failed to have the desired effect.
Ranieri’s time at Fulham will have stripped the ‘Tinkerman’ title of its positive associations and relegated it to something harmful and regressive. At Leicester City he used fewer players than any other team and his unthinkable success was reliant upon sticking with the same system rather than chaotically messing with it.
Everything fell into place for Claudio Ranieri in the 2015/16 campaign, and he magically invented a title-winning formula. At Fulham, there seemed to be no formula, or plan, rather a dogmatic indogmatism.
Panicked changes to formation week-by-week, playing key players out of position and omitting key players ultimately led to his downfall. This seemed less like genius methodical tinkering, and more like hoping for the best.
An Unerasable Legacy
Despite Claudio Ranieri’s career taking a diminuendo, it was always bound to happen. Failing to repeat his extraordinary success was never likely, but across his career he has refused to quit while he’s ahead – or quit in general.
After losing to the Faroe Islands and failing to land Greece a place in Euro 2016, Ranieri could have thrown in the towel. Instead, he joined Leicester City, proved the critics wrong, and achieved the unthinkable.
Chairman Shahid Khan ultimately took a risk with Claudio Ranieri, but it was a risk worth taking. Though temporarily his time at Fulham will take a hit on an otherwise illustrious reputation, his miraculous achievements at Leicester will forever preserve his legacy.
Although it doesn’t make his poor spell at Fulham excusable, fans will sympathise with his impossible situation: wanting to manage but always being in the shadow of his former glories. The more times he fails to succeed, the ‘one season wonder’ tag will inevitably circulate and serve to dent his reputation.
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