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Ranieri takes ride on Watford’s managerial carousel

By AFP - Oct 05,2021 - Last updated at Oct 05,2021

London — Claudio Ranieri is taking his turn on the Watford managerial carousel as the popular Italian embarks on a fourth spell in the Premier League.

The former Chelsea and Leicester boss was hired by Watford on Monday following the sacking of Xisco Munoz.

If leading 5,000-1 outsiders Leicester to their astonishing Premier League title triumph in 2016 is unquestionably Ranieri’s greatest feat, then surviving more than a season in the Vicarage Road hot-seat might come a close second.

The 69-year-old is Watford’s 13th permanent manager during the reign of the Pozzo family, who took control in 2012.

Munoz led Watford to promotion from the Championship last season and the Hornets were outside the relegation zone when he was ruthlessly axed on Sunday after just 10 months in charge.

The club, in 15th spot in the Premier League, cited the “negative trend” of performances this season, with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds leaving Watford without a win in their past three games in all competitions.

Even if Ranieri can keep Watford in the English top-flight this term, it is impossible to know whether that would be enough to satisfy the capricious Pozzos.

Ranieri will at least be fortified by decades of experience and an innate ability to win over players and employers with his disarmingly eccentric personality.

The new job is the 22nd appointment of an itinerant managerial career that started with Italian amateur side Vigor Lamezia in 1986.

Ranieri’s wanderlust has taken him on a 35-year rollercoaster ride, featuring stops at some of Europe’s grande dames in Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.

He hoisted the Coppa Italia with Fiorentina and the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup at Valencia.

In four years at Chelsea, he earned the nickname of “Tinkerman” for a compulsive desire to reshuffle his starting line-up each week.

At that time, foreign managers were still a relative novelty in England and Ranieri had to work hard to win over a sceptical squad.

By the time he left in 2004, he had established Chelsea in the Champions League, setting the stage for the success of the Roman Abramovich era.

Charm offensive

But it was 11 years before Ranieri returned to the Premier League and by then his appeal had worn off in some quarters.

Being sacked by Greece after losing to the Faroe Islands was seen as conclusive proof that the Italian was past it.

Former England star Gary Lineker, a noted Leicester fan, greeted news of the Italian’s 2015 appointment with a scathing tweet that read “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” 

But he immediately went on a charm offensive, rewarding his players with pizza and champagne after victories and entertaining the media with his whimsical press conferences.

Revealing that he used an “imaginary bell” in training to keep his players focused, Ranieri’s “dilly ding, dilly dong” description became the quirky catchphrase that defined Leicester’s incredible title success.

But at an age when many of his contemporaries have eased into retirement, he could not resist one more shot at defying the odds with Watford.

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