King Claudio Ranieri And The Curse Of Leicester

The story of how Claudio Ranieri from Rome became King of England.

Leicester City’s football fairytale, Champions of England 2016, is ready to be made into a movie, following the terrible helicopter crash happened right outside the King Power Stadium, shortly after the home match against West Ham, on October 27.

The airship contained Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and other four people who, unfortunately, all died in the accident. The former coach Claudio Ranieri, hero of the historical 2015/2016 season which saw this little city in the East Midlands triumph against all odds in the Premier League, had traveled many times in that helicopter. It’s easy then to understand why the Italian was still very fond with Vichai. With Ranieri in charge indeed, the victory of Leicester in the tournament was listed 5000:1 by the bookmakers, an event considered to be even less likely than the discovery of the Loch Ness monster or an aliens landing.

Claudio Ranieri, a King from Rome

Claudio Ranieri was born and raised in one of the most popular districts of Rome, Testaccio, where the first AS Roma stadium, the beating heart of the “giallorossi” fans, was located. Claudio’s family owned a butcher shop in the main square of this Roman “rione”, and that’s where his dialectal nickname “Er Fettina” (Cutlet, in Italian), stemmed from. Yet, in the butchery, it was his father Mario and his brother to run the place, as Claudio spent his greener days playing football in the local church ground. From his great love for football stems the second nickname his friends called him with, “Er Pecione” — which in Roman is used for low-level cobblers — due to his alleged little talent for this sport.

Nevertheless, in an era in which football was not run by sponsors or agents, Claudio Ranieri was noticed by the legendary coach Helenio Herrera and was thus enrolled by AS Roma, his favorite team which had the merit of turning him from a striker into a defender. After six matches with AS Roma first team, in 1974 his career takes the way to Catanzaro, Calabria, where he would become a key pillar of the defence during the team’s golden age in “Serie A”, between the late ’70s and the early ’80s. Catanzaro was in his destiny, as the team shares the same yellow and red colors with AS Roma, but, above all, that’s where Claudio Ranieri found the true love by meeting his future wife Rosanna.

Testaccio, Claudio Ranieri native district in Rome

Coaching Career

In another twist of fate, his coaching career starts in the amateur categories with Vigor Lamezia, a few miles away from Catanzaro. The following year, Claudio Ranieri starts from the third division at Campania Puteolana, near Naples. The third match of the season was against Cagliari, a noble team impoverished after winning the Serie A seventeen years before. Ranieri’s team unexpectedly won the match 1-0, and that day became the turning point of his managerial career: one year later, the same Cagliari hired Claudio who, in response, took the Sardinian team back to the top division in just two years. Then, both Napoli and Fiorentina knocked at his door. In Florence, he won his first trophies already in 1996, namely Italy Cup against Atalanta and Italy Supercup by beating AC Milan in San Siro thanks to an unforgettable double by Gabriel Omar Batistuta.

In 1997, the future King Claudio moved abroad, managing in the following order Valencia, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea and again Valencia, where he won one Copa del Rey, one Spain Supercup and the prestigious UEFA Supercup against FC Porto in 2004. In Chelsea however, the relationship with both the new Russian multimillionaire owner Roman Abramovich and the British press was not so idyllic, given that he was sacked in 2004 and nicknamed by the local sports journalists “Tinkerman”, very similar to the above mentioned homemade appellation “Er Pecione”.

1999, Claudio Ranieri wins Copa del Rey with Valencia. Photo by Euan McTear

Back to basics

Ten years later, Claudio Ranieri comes back to Italy to lead Parma and then Juventus, but in 2009, his return to Rome to replace Luciano Spalletti as AS Roma manager, represents his true back to basics. At home, surrounded by the dearest ones, Claudio did not miss the chance to become the eighth king of Rome, leading the Wolves to an incredible second position, only losing the Scudetto in the last match of the season. Ranieri, who had taken a scoreless team in the first two matches, coasted to the final win.

The same year, AS Roma got to the Italy Cup final, but like in the Serie A, José Mourinho’s Inter finally managed to win both the competitions against him, in the great season of the so-called “Triplete”, completed by the historic nerazzurri victory in the UEFA Champions League. When Ranieri left once again his native city, he spent four years wandering between FC Internazionale, As Monaco and the Greek national team, before crossing the Channel and take once and for all the Crown of England.

The Crown of England

Aliens did land in England in 2015, when the Thai consortium headed by the tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who had acquired Leicester City FC in 2010, called Ranieri to lead the “Foxes” after some not particularly brilliant seasons. Nonetheless, as it has always happened in his footballing carrer, Claudio was used to doing his very best in small provincial towns, where work dynamics are forthright and where he can implement his ideas with no pressure. After a year long, remarkable ride, Leicester won the Premier League on May 2, taking over some of the richest and most titled clubs in football history. Even the New York Times, which does not usually focus on European football, named Leicester the greatest sporting story of all time.

May 2016, Leicester City FC celebrates its first historical victory in Premier League

It’s the story of how Claudio Ranieri from Rome became King Claudio, ruler of a small British town that went crazy, incredulous to become the new Queen of England. Afterwards, the King won individual prizes and awards, among those the prestigious “2016 Best FIFA Football Coach”, the “Golden Foot as Football Legend“, the “The Italian Palme D’Or as Coach” and the honour of “The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic“.

Unfortunately, the following season was not as miraculous for the Foxes and the unfortunate Leicester owner Srivaddhanaprabha decided to sack Claudio Ranieri to appoint an English former player, Craig Shakespeare: probably, the evocative power of this famed British surname reminds us that the greatest human works such as Hamlet or Leicester, often have to end in tragedy to become immortal. And Claudio and Vichai both are.