Their penultimate experience, just four months, at Watford, pure Premier, may have been one of the most ephemeral of his entire career, but Claudio Ranieri (Rome, 1951) is ready for the next call.
—Three months without a bench to sit on… Are you lacking football or are you thinking about retirement?
“Noooo, sir.” Of course I miss football. It’s my life. I can’t wait to have a good project again, a team with the illusion of doing it well, with ambitious people of character. I’m looking forward to the next one so I can go back to I work.
—And after 36 years as a coach, 18 clubs, a national team, aren’t you a little tired and bored of going around the world with your wheeled suitcase? There are almost 1,400 games.
—Noooo… I’m bored being at home. I’ve never counted the clubs I’ve been through, to be honest… Few, I still have a long way to go and I want to go. I don’t take the games into account either, but I remember that a few years ago I was awarded in the Premier for reaching a thousand.
—What do you know about the current Valencia de Bordalás? It is said that soccer is quite similar to his: hard, direct, physical, little ball…
I haven’t seen much of him, to be honest. I see that he scores goals, but that he also receives too many. If they say it has the qualities of my team from the past, I’m happy, I wish it all the best because then it will be a good team. The team, the football, that puts the opponent in difficulty is always good.
“That team in the final against Atlético was tactically perceptive and very effective in its resolution”
—Let’s talk about your Valencia. He arrives in September 1997 replacing Valdano.
—The first year was complicated, but the second was a full year. We started with the Intertoto in the middle of June, we won it and qualified for the UEFA Cup and we finished it with the Cup final which was played on June 26. I do not forget it. A whole year playing. In the League we finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League. It was a Valencia made up of expert players and young players. People who wanted to finish their career well and people who wanted to go far. And of course they arrived, as was the case with Angulo, Farinós, Mendieta…
—Remember the eleven of the final against Atlético (3-0).
—If I think, the same yes. Canizares; Anglomá and Carboni, the lateral ones; Djukic and Roche, the centrals; in the center Mendieta, Milla and Farinós; and the attackers were Ilie, Claudio López and Vlaovic. We played a 1-3-4-3. Anglomá was almost another midfielder on the right.
—The ‘Piojo’ López could have been the fastest striker you’ve ever had…
‘Maybe, yes, with Vardy from Leicester. Ilie was also fast.
—A special memory of that final?
—The victory itself and possibly Mendieta’s goal. He controls with his chest, passing the ball over the defender who was marking him and finishing with his left foot before the ball hits the ground. Mendieta did a season with me beautiful.
“His secret was that the players did what they knew, none wanted to do what they couldn’t”
—How was that Valencia?
“It was a very tactically savvy team and very effective in resolution. I don’t really like possession of the ball, I like to go directly to score a goal. That’s what I like most about football, scoring goals, and for that I think the best way is to go straight to the opposite goal. Then, if you have a team that knows how to combine and in the last 20 meters knows how to overcome rivals, it’s another speech. That Valencia was very strong because no player wanted to do more than he knew. Everyone did what they knew with a very good organization. Milla, ahead of the defense, gave the time of the game; Farinós and Mendieta, with Anglomá and Carboni on the wings, were the ones who attacked from behind. And the forwards knew how to score goals at speed.
—Before the final they eliminated Barcelona and Real Madrid. To be champions they beat the three greats of Spanish football.
“And how did we do it?” We beat Barcelona in the quarterfinals 2-3 in Barcelona and 4-3 at home. We scored seven goals for them. And we beat Real Madrid 6-0 at Mestalla and lost 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Another seven goals. That was that Valencia, a practical team that reached the goal.
—The day of the final must have been a difficult day for you. Opposite was the club where he was going to work the following season.
-No no no. I am a serious professional. He was from Valencia for all purposes until he signed for Atlético and I have always sought the best for my team without looking beyond. So it was not a difficult day. The best thing that could happen to me was showing up at my new club with the victory of the Copa del Rey. It was an important plus.
—The stay at Atlético was short, eight months… What memories do you have left?
—The one of a wonderful family with Jesus and his children. Then the judge came to the club, everything came to a standstill, everything fell apart and I preferred to leave. I couldn’t go on. What I experienced there I have never experienced again in my life, neither before nor after. A club paralyzed by Justice.
—He returned to Valencia in the 2004-05 season after leaving Chelsea.
—When I arrived I told the leaders that this team had just won the League and the UEFA Cup, but it had no potential to repeat and I warned them that we were going to suffer that year. They told me to be calm, that there would be no problems, that I should dedicate myself to work and later when the results did not turn out as we wanted, they fired me in a very bad way. Even so, at the beginning we won the Super Cup against Porto. He was a very young Valencia. Everything changed for us with the injury of Vicente, the winger. We dropped him and the light went out. He was the player who carried the weight of the attacking game, who brought us closer to the goal. A serious loss. His absence turned off the entire team.
—The Premier that you won with Leicester (2015-16) was the most important triumph of your entire coaching career?
—For the others, yes, but I can’t forget that I took Cagliari from Serie C (Third) to Serie A (First) in two years; I can’t forget the Parma either, I caught it last in mid-February and saved it; I can’t forget Sampdoria, caught in a difficult moment, I saved it and the following year I took it to tenth place… Let’s say that my coaching career hasn’t been bad. I am very happy with her.
—Five countries. Only Germany is missing from the big leagues. They never called you from the Bundesliga?
—There was some contact, but it never materialized. I have known how to adapt well to all the countries in which I have worked, among other reasons because football has become universal. In each championship I have found a special philosophy. For example, in Spanish, the idea is to have possession of the ball, command the game. In Italy we are more tactical. Whereas in England and Germany they are more practical, fast, they play at an exciting pace.