English Premiership

Italy rejoices as Ranieri proves critics wrong

Claudio Ranieri (Getty Images)
Claudio Ranieri (Getty Images)

Milan - Once rejected by Juventus and Inter Milan, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has been given the royal seal of approval by Italy's coaching hierarchy as the Foxes continue their unlikely run to the Premier League title.

Another fairytale weekend of football in England saw Ranieri's leaders secure Champions League football next season with a 2-0 win over Sunderland.

With a seven-point lead on Tottenham and on the cusp of upsetting the Premier League billionaires, it is no wonder post-match pictures of a teary Ranieri went viral over the weekend.

Both of Italy's biggest sports dailies, La Gazzetta dello Sport and the Corriere dello Sport, splashed Ranieri's exploits over the front and opening pages of Monday's edition.

Considered a relative failure in Italy, having been sacked by both Inter and Juventus when he failed to match expectations, Ranieri's biggest achievement in his homeland was steering Fiorentina to the Serie B championship in 1994 and the Italian Cup and Super Cup two years later.

Now, he is the world's most talked-about manager. For former Juventus and Italy coach Marcello Lippi, Ranieri is simply proving the old adage that 'Italians do it better'.

"Only an Italian coach could achieve a feat like this," Lippi, the first coach to win the Champions League on two different continents with Juventus (1996) and Guangzhou Evergrande (2013), told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"What he's doing is extraordinary. Last year, they (Leicester) avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, and Ranieri has come in and given some organisational backbone to the squad.

"Good results have instilled confidence and now we're all reading about the most incredible footballing story of the last 30 years."

As Juventus continue to lead the way for Italian clubs in Europe, making it to last year's final only to be outclassed 3-1 by Barcelona, Italian coaches are in increasing demand.

Italy coach Antonio Conte, who won three consecutive titles with Juventus, will become the latest Italian to join the Premier League ranks when he takes over at Chelsea after Euro 2016.

Currently, Ranieri and Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin are flying the flag in England's top flight.

But for the moment it is Ranieri, sacked as coach of Greece following a Euro 2016 qualifying defeat to the Faroe Islands, who holds the bragging rights.

Once at loggerheads with Jose Mourinho when the Portuguese was with Inter and he was coach of Juventus, Ranieri has even earned plaudits from the 'Special One' himself.

"He is a good man who I respect. In spite of bad words, he knows I like him very much and I would like him to win," Mourinho said prior to Leicester's win over Sunderland.

But with five games to play, former Roma, England and Russia coach Fabio Capello offered a word of advice.

"Leicester have to be careful, because when you rise to the top like that, the fear of not winning your next game starts to creep in," he told Gazzetta.

"Ranieri has to make sure tension stays out of the dressing room."

Sampdoria coach Vincenzo Montella, who quit Roma in 2009 just as Ranieri was arriving at the club he supported as a boy, said: "For us Italians, what he's doing is huge."

Former Rangers and AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, meanwhile, said Ranieri had done so well Leicester should be crowned champions already.

"Give them the trophy now," Gattuso commented on social media over the weekend. "This is the biggest story English football has ever seen."