The humble, grandfatherly manager is finally getting his due after leading Leicester to its improbable championship.
Claudio Ranieri, after 28 seasons, finally is the manager of a championship team, and players and clubs around the world could not be happier for him.
Ranieri, ousted from Chelsea by Roman Abramovich for Jose Mourinho in 2004 and more recently axed as manager of Greece prior to taking over at Leicester City, has become a beloved figure in Leicester's championship run. His press conferences have been wildly entertaining but also humble, whether he was playing down the club's expectations and aspirations–in the winter he was talking about just getting enough points to avoid relegation!–or finally admitting the club was setting its sights on the title prior to last week's draw against Manchester United.
This is the same manager who promised his team a pizza party–and delivered–after the club's first clean sheet of the season.
The BBC caught up with Ranieri on Tuesday and asked him what the club's secret was. His answer? "I don't know the secret. I think the players, the heart, the soul, how they play it."
Ranieri, who said he'd be traveling during Chelsea and Tottenham's decisive draw after having lunch in Italy with his 96-year-old mother, had his name chanted by Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge on Monday and even had one fan holding a "Let's Do It For Ranieri" sign. And the plaudits didn't stop there.
Chelsea veteran John Terry praised the 64-year-old Ranieri, saying "credit to Claudio, he's a great manager and a great person" in his postgame remarks following a heated North London derby (2:49).
The tweets poured in from all corners of the soccer globe, especially from his native Italy:
For a man who has made Leicester run about everything but himself, the praise is certainly due. And as fate would have it, Ranieri's storybook season will end at Stamford Bridge, where Abramovich–who famously claimed Ranieri would never win the league as he brought in Mourinho–will watch as Chelsea provides the guard of honor for Ranieri and his Foxes. Tinkerman no more: Ranieri is a Premier League champion.