Ranieri returns
EPL winner back at Watford – but for how long?
Published: Oct 07, 2021 04:38 PM
Then Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri (right) hugs AC Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after a match on April 3 in Milan, Italy. Photo: VCG

Then Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri (right) hugs AC Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after a match on April 3 in Milan, Italy. Photo: VCG

The managerial merry-go-round has caught its first casualty of the English Premier League season with Watford blinking first.

Out goes Xisco Munoz, the Spaniard leaving after 36 games in charge of the Hornets which includes taking them to the English Premier League last season.

In comes the man who won the most fairy tale of English Premier League titles with Leicester City back in 2016.

"Watford FC is delighted to confirm the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as the club's new Head Coach, on a two-year contract," the club said in an official statement on the appointment of the veteran coach.

"The Italian arrives at Vicarage Road boasting a wealth of experience in charge of some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Premier League, Coppa Italia and Copa del Rey titles among his managerial highlights," the statement continued.

Ranieri has indeed managed across Europe and Watford marks the fourth different English Premier League side that he has managed.

"Having enjoyed a storied 13-year-long playing career that featured spells at Roma, Catanzaro, Catania and Palermo in his homeland, Ranieri made his name in management with Cagliari at the turn of the 1990s," Watford's statement continued.

"Successive promotions in Sardinia - as well as the Coppa Italia Serie C title - were followed by stints at the helm of Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia and Atletico Madrid, before his first foray into English football with Chelsea in 2000."

It was at Chelsea that Ranieri got the reputation as "The Tinkerman" for constantly tweaking his lineups, though he oversaw improvement at Stamford Bridge as the last manager of the pre-Roman Abrahomivic era.

"Besides his four-year stay at Stamford Bridge - which saw the Blues improve their points total season on season - and a spell in charge of Fulham between 2018 and 2019, Ranieri's best-publicized period in England was as boss of Leicester City," Watford's announcement of Ranieri went on.

"The Foxes had battled relegation the season prior to Ranieri's arrival at the King Power Stadium, but the 69-year-old oversaw an incredible 2015-16 campaign in which they defied odds of 5000/1 to lift the Premier League trophy as champions.

"Such exploits saw Ranieri pick up a host of individual gongs, including the 2016 FIFA Best Men's Coach award, the 2015-16 Premier League Manager of the Season award and the 2016 LMA Manager of the Year award."

That would have been enough for some but rather than walk away from the game after being let go by Leicester a year on from their greatest triumph - with the champions just one point above the relegation zone after 13 games of the campaign - he went on to other top jobs.

"As well as a second spell in charge of Valencia and two at hometown club Roma, Ranieri has also enjoyed the top job at Parma, Juventus, Inter Milan, Monaco, the Greece national team, Nantes and Sampdoria, the latter of which he left this summer," the Hornets added.

Ranieri impressed with Sampdoria, according to Italian football expert James Horncastle.

"He kept them up with games to spare, he then built on that in the second season and took a Sampdoria side who had no money and had sold all their players into the top half. He is still a very capable manager," Horncastle told BBC Radio Five Live on Ranieri's return to the English top tier.

"You have to respect he is two weeks shy of his 70th birthday. He could happily retire, live off the greatest title win the league has ever seen and go on speaking tours. But he just wants to coach, he is totally addicted to it.

"A lot of people will point to Fulham and how that didn't end well. But he has gone into jobs like this before and either matched expectations or over performed."

Ranieri will be aware that time is not on his side and he needs to get the Hornets buzzing as soon as he can.

His first game will be against Liverpool on October 16 once the Premier League resumes after the international break.

Ranieri is the latest in a long line of managers to try to succeed at Watford since the Pozzo family took over the club back in 2012.

In that time there have been 14 managers: Sean Dyche, Gianfranco Zola, Giuseppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Billy McKinlay, Slavisa Jokanovic, Quique Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri, Marco Silva, Javi Gracia, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Munoz and now Ranieiri have all been in charge.

Sanchez Flores has had two spells in charge as full-time boss, while Hayden Mullins has had two spells as the caretaker manager at Vicarage Road.

Munoz lasted 10 months before the club called time on his stint.

"Watford FC confirms Xisco Munoz has left his post as the club's Head Coach. The Board feels recent performances strongly indicate a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving," they said in a statement.

No manager has ever made it to the two-year mark under the Pozzo regime and the last boss to do so was Malky Mackay, whose 24-month spell at the Hertfordshire club ended in June 2011, before the Italians took over.

How long will the 69-year-old Ranieri last in the hottest of hot seats?

He will need to turn results round as soon as he can, with Munoz being shown the door after a 1-0 loss to Leeds United.

Watford goalkeeper called that defeat a "1-0 battering" after the match.

"I thought if we would have [equalized] it would have been papering over the cracks," Foster said post-match, after Watford had a goal disallowed.

"We were very poor today. We didn't have a shot on target, so can't expect to come away with anything. They were very sharp and worked their socks off but if you allow them to do that it's going to be a long day."

Unless Ranieri can turn things around - and quickly - it is going to be a long season for Watford.
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