Wily Italian coach masterminded an unlikely triumph against the odds.
This was the year when Claudio Ranieri, football’s nearly man, had the last laugh. After a coaching career spanning almost 30 years, he finally won a major league title.
The Italian, of course, played a central role in Leicester City’s astonishing Premier League success. His mix of pragmatic tactics and laidback leadership style helped keep the Foxes on track for the title as pundit after pundit predicted they would drop out of the race.
Typically, Ranieri was back in Italy, celebrating his mother’s 96th birthday, on the day that Leicester’s title victory was confirmed by a draw between Chelsea and closest challengers Tottenham Hotspur.
There had been successes before for Ranieri: second-division titles at Cagliari, Fiorentina and Monaco, the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup at Valencia, the Coppa Italia with Fiorentina.
And there had been plenty of close runs in the league, too, managing nine previous top-four finishes, including second places with Chelsea (2004), Juventus (2009), Roma (2010) and Monaco (2014). The taunt from then-Internazionale coach Jose Mourinho that he had won “zero tituli” probably hurt more than the “Tinkerman” jibe attributed to agent Pini Zahavi during Ranieri’s spell at Chelsea, which ended in 2004 when owner Roman Abramovich hired Mourinho.
Eleven years later, on his surprise arrival at Leicester, Ranieri was able to reflect on his time at Stamford Bridge with typical good humour. “I think everyone now rotates,” he said. “The Tinkerman was one, now there are a lot of Tinkermen!”
Gary Lineker described Leicester’s appointment of Ranieri as an “uninspiring choice” and much of the scepticism stemmed from Leicester’s predicament; they were seen as relegation candidates who needed a survival specialist to maintain their Premier League place.
Ranieri’s stock was low after lasting just four games with Greece, departing after a home defeat by the Faroe Islands.
But with experience stretching back three decades and battle-hardened by tough campaigns in Serie A, he was always going to make Leicester a tough nut to crack. And so it proved as the nearly man triumphed against the odds.
World Manager of the Year
1 Claudio Ranieri Leicester City 49 votes
2 Fernando Santos Portugal national team 20
3 Diego Simeone Atletico Madrid 12
4= Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 3
4= Luis Enrique Barcelona 3
4= Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid 3
7= Pep Guardiola Bayern Munich/Manchester City 2
7= Lars Lagerbeck Iceland national team 2
9= Chris Coleman Wales national team 1
9= Antonio Conte Italy national team/Chelsea 1
9= Eddie Howe Bournemouth 1
1982 Enzo Bearzot (Italy) 49%
1983 Sepp Piontek (Denmark) 29
1984 Michel Hidalgo (France) 30
1985 Terry Venables (Barcelona) 30
1986 Guy Thys (Belgium) 15
1987 Johan Cruyff (Ajax) 25
1988 Rinus Michels (Holland/Bayer Leverkusen) 48
1989 Arrigo Sacchi (Milan) 42
1990 Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany) 53
1991 Michel Platini (France) 42
1992 Richard Moller Nielsen (Denmark) 28
1993 Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) 21
1994 Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil) 17
1995 Louis Van Gaal (Ajax) 42
1996 Berti Vogts (Germany) 28
1997 Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund) 17
1998 Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) 28
1999 Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) 60
2000 Dino Zoff (Italy) 18
2001 Gerard Houllier (Liverpool) 28
2002 Guus Hiddink (South Korea) 28
2003 Carlo Ancelotti (Milan) 20
2004 Jose Mourinho (Porto/Chelsea) 36
2005 Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) 34
2006 Marcello Lippi (Italy) 35
2007 Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) 26
2008 Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) 37
2009 Pep Guardiola (Barcelona) 62
2010 Jose Mourinho (Internazionale/Real Madrid) 48
2011 Pep Guardiola (Barcelona) 33
2012 Vicente Del Bosque (Spain) 21.54
2013 Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich)
2014 Joachim Low (Germany)
2015 Luis Enrique (Barcelona)