“Sadly football is a business with a short memory”- Luigi Riccardi
Claudio Ranieri, the 65- year old, Italian manager who led lowly Leicester City Football Club to an unprecedented English Premiership title win last season was given the boot last Thursday. The Foxes have been a shadow of the team they were last season, no doubt. But very few suspected that their hero, who surpassed all expectations and made history with a team of average players could get the axe so soon. Just nine months later…just 292 days after lifting the coveted trophy, memories were trashed to the bin, and a benefactor was fired in a most unceremonious manner. If that isn’t the height of disloyalty and betrayal then I don’t know what is.
The controversial sacking of the former Chelsea and Napoli coach has generated plenty of debate in the football world. While some believe football related matters is strictly business and should be handled as such, others are absolutely gutted by what they regard as an unfair treatment of a man who put Leicester City on the map of special recognition. I belong to the latter school of thought.
What the management of Leicester have done is not only shameful, but a clear example of how fickle-minded man is. While a manager/club management relationship remains first and foremost an employee/employer one, there’s a reason we are human and have emotions. It’s to ensure we are sufficiently different from robots or machines which have no emotions and operate strictly on logic or at best artificial intelligence. We are before any other thing, human; and while there’s always talk of using the head rather than the heart in tackling a number of issues, it is impossible to divorce any human from emotions and yes, sentiments.
I believe a little sentiment should have come to play in considering what to do about Leicester City’s poor run of form in their second season under Ranieri. Apart from the fact that it was always going to be difficult to live up to their unbelievable performance and eventual feat of the 2015/16 Premier League season, the management of the club seem to have forgotten so quickly that what they achieved less than a year ago was far above their (and anyone else’s) expectations.
Here was a team that had gained promotion to the Premier League after ten years of being off top flight football. They escaped relegation by a hair’s breath the season before their fairy tale title win and automatic Champions League qualification. That phenomenal achievement would not have been possible without the tactical acumen of Claudio Ranieri.
It’s understandable that the management of Leicester would loathe to go back to the days of being minnows of the beautiful game once again. It’s understandable that concern must have heightened over their rapid downward spiral on the league table owing to their desperately pathetic run of form since the beginning of this season. What is not understandable is that Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha did not find it the least bit callous to unceremoniously fire a man who brought his club to prominence. For those who compare the sacking of Jose Mourinho by Chelsea to Ranieris, let me just point out that the two situations aren’t exactly similar.
Chelsea have been a top club and regular Champions League contender for a while now. Same cannot be said of Leicester. Chelsea is a club that expects to win a trophy or more every season. They have world class players who can compete against any other elite football team in the world. The case is different for Leicester. Ranieri turned a bunch of average, “nameless” players into big boys over the course of one season. But for that title triumph, they probably wouldn’t have been able to afford Musa and Slimani. The owner would not also have dreamed of making elaborate plans to expand the capacity of the stadium. Ranieri was central to all of that, whilst not overlooking the effort of each and every member of the team, and to have him treated this way is really sad.
But I am not too surprised. What has played out by way of Leicester City’s treatment of Ranieri is not peculiar to them alone. It’s more prevalent than we think. How many times have we forgotten how well a person treated us in the past, only to judge them for one singular gaffe? In our individual lives, how many times have we closed our eyes to all the good attributes a person possesses, preferring rather to assess them on the basis of the minutest of all flaws?
I guess it’s the way humans are wired. Do all the good in the world and you are praised only for a minuscule moment, but falter just once because you are simply human, and the same people who in the deepest recesses of their hearts know that people don’t really come better than you are the ones who would be quickest to nail you to the cross. All your good deeds forgotten. And your flaws magnified under the high power objective lens of a microscope.
Leicester City’s emphatic 3-1 win over Liverpool on Monday night lend some sort of credence to rumours of the player’s complicity in the ouster of their former manager. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if they can build on that significant victory, and more importantly survive relegation this season. Failure to do so may just mean they become the laughing stock of many who feel bruised on Ranieri’s behalf.
I don’t know about you but I certainly won’t feel sorry for them if this happens.