From Fairytale To Nightmare
Having lost seven of their last eight games, the Fulham board called time on Claudio Ranieri’s miserable tenure at Craven Cottage. He departed the club sitting in nineteenth place, ten points adrift of safety with ten league games remaining.
After winning the Premier League title with Leicester City in 2016, everything will naturally feel like an anti-climax for the Italian.
Since this miraculous feat, spells with Nantes and Fulham have, inevitably, failed to revive the same dizzying heights.
Winning the title was described by Ranieri as a ‘fairytale’, but it is now well and truly over. Three years on, his dismissal marks the eighth shortest managerial reign in Premier League history.
After being sacked by Leicester City just nine months after winning the title in February 2017, returning to the Premier League with Fulham was an opportunity to re-ignite his career – but it didn’t go according to plan.
Ranieri looked a shadow of his former self and, despite Fulham fans hoping he would inspire another romantic Premier League journey, Phil McNulty describes it more as a ‘loveless, arranged marriage which both sides seemed happy to end’.
Lightning Never Strikes Twice
Although Claudio 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, a man dubbed by owner Shahid Khan as ‘ready-made for the Premier League’. The Cottagers’ dismal situation, however, 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 in the long run. The reality is that any managerial venture Claudio Ranieri embarks upon will invariably be underwhelming and skulking in the shadow of his Leicester heroics.
Taking the Fulham job was a brave move due to the sizeable amount of expectation heaped upon him. Nevertheless, he saw the potential of a side packed with potential and talent, over £100 million pounds worth of it in fact, 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 romanticised reference point, but Fulham fans will particularly look at his time at Craven Cottage in isolation. Upon doing so, they will identify tactical ineptitude, questionable decision-making and an overall lack of direction.
In the past, the ‘Tinkerman’ has been renowned for his unorthodox methods and colourful personality. Whilst this approach has proven successful in the past they have also, such as in Fulham’s case, failed to yield the desired effect.
Ranieri’s time at Fulham will have stripped the ‘Tinkerman’ tag of its positive associations and relegated it to something damaging.
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 meddling with it.
Everything fell into place for Claudio Ranieri during the 2015/16 campaign, and he magically invented a title-winning formula. Whereas, at Fulham there seemed to be no formula or identifiable blueprint.
Panicked changes to formation week-by-week, playing key players out of position and omitting stars such as Ryan Sessegnon ultimately led to his downfall. This seemed less like genius methodical tinkering and more like praying for the best week-by-week.
An Untouchable Legacy
Despite Claudio Ranieri’s career taking a downward decline since his time at Leicester rather than a crescendo, 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.
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 performance at Fulham excusable, fans can still sympathise with his impossible situation of 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. Equally, it only emphasises just how miraculous Leicester’s title-winning campaign was, and how incredibly fortunate we all were to witness it.