Leicester City getting rid of Claudio Ranieri now is hardly madness | Barney Ronay

Leicester City won the title last season by being ruthless and clear-sighted so Claudio Ranieris exit with only 13 league games left makes sporting sense

Like all the best fairytales Leicester Citys title story came to an end on Thursday night with a bracing little touch of cruelty. This is usually the way of these things: poisoned apples, hungry wolves, the doomed gingerbread house. Or, as in this case, someone getting the chop.

And so farewell then, Claudio Ranieri. Well always have Leicester city centre on a muggy night in May. Well always have Robert Huth leaping above the floodlights to score at Spurs. Not to mention those oddly foggy memories of Riyad Mahrez sending Joe Hart and Martn Demichelis halfway to the Manchester velodrome with an insolent little swivel en route to a goal and a victory that gave the title pursuit an air of unstoppable ascent.

Well always have the memory of those press conferences where you pretended, shrewdly, to be a bumbling, cartoon Italian uncle from a processed tomato sauce advert, thereby giving everyone a laugh and avoiding the need to say too much and risk derailing that beautifully pure, straight-line toboggan ride through winter and spring.

Perhaps we might be able to forget, for now, all that slightly annoying dilly-dong business. Or emerge without any lasting memory of the sourness of the ending, an abrupt departure via club statement that in time will melt away, leaving just the cloudless memories of the most sensational league title victory in modern football history.

As the mists surrounding Ranieris departure begin to clear there are probably two things left worth saying. First, the narrative arc is now complete. A wild, improbable, but still oddly symmetrical story reached its pitch in May when Leicester fans in pizza suits danced in the stands, the skies thundered, everybody cried and Andrea Bocelli hit the big fat, emotional high notes.

Ranieris arrival at the King Power had been met with wariness and some suspicion. His success brought glorious disbelief. His departure has been followed now by a wave of sentiment, a collective intake of breath at the sheer audacity of this tale of rise and fall.

On which note and notwithstanding the sense of outrage, the continuing Claudio Ranieri memorial garden-of-hope shtick the second thing to say is that sacking him does make sense. It might not be the kindest option, which would have been to wait until the summer either way. But getting rid of Ranieri now is hardly madness.

The sacking of a 65-year-old manager who spent more than 80m in the close season, went out of the FA Cup to League One opposition and now faces relegation is hardly out of keeping with footballs wider history. Managers have always been disposable patsies, balm to the ire of the crowds, a stick to be waved, vaguely, at the players. The great Stan Cullis was sacked by Wolves two days after returning from a convalescent home in Eastbourne. The Everton manager Johnny Carey was sacked in a London taxi. Peter Cormack was sacked by Cowdenbeath at a roadside burger van on the Forth Bridge. Leicester were heading for relegation. The great book of football truisms says sacking Ranieri might just reverse the process.

The anomaly springs, of course, from the sheer scale of last seasons glory, a sense that the greatest title victory of the age might be enough to buy a little more time, to provide a sentimental insulation, to suggest the manager responsible is still the best man to turn it around. And yet there is no real case for applying such extended logic here.

There is still no sensible explanation of how Leicester actually managed to play so relentlessly above themselves for nine months. Momentum from the seasons end, perhaps. Talented, much-travelled players performing at their absolute best, and all at the same time. A simple gameplan. The failure of opponents to adjust in time. A steady hand. Magic. Fairy dust. Luck.

Claudio
Claudio Ranieri shows off the Premier League title in Leicester city centre last May. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Ranieri was responsible for at least half of this. It has been suggested the only real change made to Nigel Pearsons team of the season before was the addition of NGolo Kant. A cruel judge might even say Pearsons team won the league while Claudios team, replete with new faces and relentless tinkerings, are currently fourth from bottom.

This isnt quite right. Ranieri did shift things around last season. Jamie Vardy played centrally the whole time. Counterattack and tight four-man defence were relentlessly applied. Ranieri got more than any manager has before out of Danny Drinkwater.

Is it the changes since that have been so profoundly unsuccessful? In his hands Leicesters players have become again what they always seemed to be, a mix of hopeful, in-out might-still-bes. Meanwhile Ranieri has become Ranieri again, the same slightly twitchy manager sacked by Greece in his last job after his rejigs and hunches had confused the players.

This is the nature of fairy stories, magical transformations. They dont last, and often to dramatic effect. There is a casual cruelty in the fact it should be that powerfully bonded dressing room, source of Leicesters strength, that should end up getting rid of Claudio. Reports suggest the players have questioned his selections and tactics, cue for head-shaking from some.

But then the players were probably right. Ranieris selections have been weird at times. The dressing room may have been lost. But so too have quite a lot of games.

Against Millwall Leicester were unrecognisable in personnel and spirit. Against Sevilla Ahmed Musa started ahead of Demarai Gray, source of some consternation among the players. Winning the league the year before doesnt change any of this. Trajectory is everything in football. And Leicester really were heading down, despite having already embarked on one of the least impressive big-money spending sprees in recent footballing memory. Much is often made of Tottenhams splurging of The Bale Money. But Islam Slimani, Musa and Nampalys Mendy are right up there when it comes to low-impact, big-money transfer hauls. Musa was reportedly so spooked by the shift in physical intensity from the Russian league he needed a break to recover in early season. Ranieri is only one part of the recruitment team. But this really doesnt sound very Leicester, does it?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/feb/24/claudio-ranieri-leicester-city-hardly-madness

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