Claudio Ranieri is a really nice guy. Having met personally many football people, such as players and managing directors, defining someone in the field as a really nice guy is not very common, believe me. John Foot, the Bristol University professor expert in Italian sport who interviewed Ranieri last Friday at the Italian Cultural Institute in his immaculate Italian is also a very nice guy.
The conversation between them, in a room packed with English and Italian adoring fans, went on smoothly. The questions were politically correct, the answers always given with a smile. I would have expected more passion and even though at the end it took him a good 15 minutes to leave the Institute, surrounded as he was by people asking for a selfie, the evening overall went on without any pick of emotion. The man who has accomplished an impossible feat people will remember in hundred years time looks like the kind neighbours who tries not to park too close to your gate, who greets the postman and is always ready to help, if necessary.
Ranieri is unpretentious. So unpretentious he admitted he did not believe he’d win until the very final referee’s final whistle. And the credit goes to the team. ‘I won because I had always a team of 11. Usually in a team there are eight strong players, the others stay in the background. But with Leicester I had 11 fantastic people since the beginning. It’s not money that makes you win, but people’.
Ranieri is also a very controlled guy. A calm leader like Carlo Ancelotti, who just published a book about ‘The Quiet Leadership’. ‘I really did not have any reason to get angry this year’. And now, maybe, as suggested by John Foot, is his time to write a book. When asked who is his favourite player of all times, he has no doubt. ‘Gianfranco Zola has been the best Italian ambassador abroad, and apologies to the real ambassador’, Ranieri says.
Ranieri is simpathetic, too. ‘The bookies offered 5000 to 1, and they got it wrong. I feel sorry for the guy ho sold his quote, but I can understand, he has a son on wheelchair, but still, I feel sorry for him, I cannot stop thinking’.
And - could you doubt it? - Ranieri is the perfect husband. He mentioned his wife at least five time during the evening. ‘Santa Rosanna (Rosanna is his wife of more than 30 years) has to put up with me when I’m not working’. And he has a special relationship with Catanzaro, where he played many years ago.’I met my wife there, my daughter was born there. Catanzaro will always have a special place in my heart’.
Could Ranieri not be faithful? ‘I promised to my president that I would have stayed even if we finished in second division. For the same reason, I will remain at Leicester next year’. No desire to manage the Italian national team? ‘Not for the moment. Maybe one day, but at present I would really miss the daily routine, playing every week. I’m not ready to retire, yet’.
Ranieri, the positive guy. ‘Leicester is a beautiful city full of sun’, he jokes. ‘London is Acapulco, in comparison. But it doesn’t matter. When I’m playing or managing a team, I belong to the place I’m working in. I live there, I walk, I talk to the people. I promise to lady working at the local market that I would sell fruit at her stall in case of victory. Now I have to keep my word. If you see me selling apples in Leicester you know why’.