By 90Min
November 18, 2018

The footballing world was shaken on Wednesday, when Claudio Ranieri was appointed as manager of Fulham, following Slavisa Jokanovic's expected ousting. 

They were shook, because with this news, Fulham have now guaranteed themselves a title triumph in 2019/20. It's the way of the world. It's what Ranieri does with relegation candidates.  

Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

So, after staring once more into 90min's in-house crystal ball, here is the inside story of his Premier League triumph at Craven Cottage...  


We'll start in July 2019, because in truth, that's when things really started to get interesting. After keeping the Cottagers up by the skin of their teeth - with the help of free agent signing Robert Huth - a massive squad overhaul was required. 

In an uncharacteristically scathing press conference, Ranieri declared: "deadwood hasn't been since in this quantity since the break up of Noah's ark," to the stunned silence of the assembled journalists. For good measure, he added: "well, apart from at Manchester United last year." Everyone laughed. 

But Fulham's stiff, board-like players weren't laughing when they were unceremoniously cut adrift from Ranieri's glory-bound vessel. Alfie Mawson and Joe Bryan were swiftly culled from the club while the slew of unsuccessful loanees were driven to the airport by the Italian himself, before he set about repairing his squad.

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And boy did he repair it. Conscious of the French tinge that gripped his squad, and eager to bring the best out of it, he persuaded a number of his former Monaco underlings to join the fight in south west London.

Through a combination of Shahid Khan's alluring finances, and the Italian's characterstic charm and affability, the club were able to accrue, in no particular order: Diego Godin (ON A FREE!!! - thanks to Claudio's Atletico Madrid days), Anthony Martial (straight-swap for Mawson, as part of a cohort of a dozen centre backs who joined Jose Mourinho's side that summer after he missed out on Godin), James Rodriguez (£12m + shares in Khan's *spoiler* Wembley Stadium) and Joao Moutinho (£2m to Wolves + £58m to Jorge Mendes). 

In a burst of sentimentality, Ranieri named his old pal Joe Cole player-manager of the U20s. At 38, he was a veritable pioneer in the position, but his youthful exuberance, combined with his insistence that he was still 18, made him perfect for the role. 

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With familiar faces around him and a reinvigorated love of the game, Ranieri set about instilling his vigorous tactical adjustments for the upcoming season.

Keen to foster the kind of fast-paced 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 that served him so well with the Foxes, he employed the re-engergised Franck-André Zamba Anguissa alongside Jean Michael Seri at the base of his midfield to mirror the ball winner/ball player combination of N'Golo Kanté and Danny Drinkwater. 

Ahead of them, he set up James in the Riyad Mahrez role on the right, with the energetic exploits of Ryan Sessegnon on the left. Up top, it was the timeless big man little man double act of Anthony Martial and Aleksandr Mitrovic. 

In defence? Well, it was just Godin, Huth (who'd been given a two-year deal) and two other blokes. But, GODIN!

Now, you may have noticed that the £60m signing Moutinho is nowhere to be seen in that starting XI. But fear not, this was all part of the plan. Joao, you ask? (Clever world play, that). Well, let's just say this transfer wasn't entirely made for footballing reasons. All will be revealed in due course.

Back to the moment, and the stage was set for this quite extraordinary team to do quite extraordinary things. And, save for the unsavoury bust up that occurred after Moutinho was notified of his benching, the group were in high spirits.

These were raised further when they went unbeaten through their first six league games, picking up - hold-on-a-minute-ain't-that-what-Leicester-had-at-the-same-stage - 12 points for their efforts. Now in 2018/19 that would've been good enough for a modest fifth place.

But in the balmy, uncertain days of 2019/20, Fulham topped the table with this total. Perhaps here is where the context must be revealed. Chelsea are owner-less, Eden Hazard-less and transfer embargoed. Manchester United have just given Jose Mourinho an Alan Pardew-esque extension. But, most importantly, Manchester City have been dissolved. Yes, you heard me. 

This was enacted by the new head of FIFA, (wait for it)... Jorge Mendes. *DUH-DUH-DUUUHHHH* That's right, the Cottagers funded Mendes' campaign, with this nefarious tactic in mind all along. Ingenious.

Up to speed, you can now see why Fulham found themselves where they were so early on. From there, they would go unbeaten until Christmas, with Martial netting 18 times, and Mitrovic picking up - yep - 18 assists. 

The first team to stop them were West Ham on Boxing Day, when a surprisingly/suspiciously spritely Samir Nasri ran the show with two goals and two assists in a 4-2 thriller. He also somehow ran 17.4km, but this was quickly glossed over. 

Inspired by the ignominy of this east London trouncing, Ranieri's team roared out of the New Year blocks, scoring 26 goals in four January games. With their goal difference taken care of, the Italian battened down the hatches to produce a series of 1-0's and 0-0's. They wouldn't lose again, winning the title with four games to spare. 

FBL-ENG-PR-LEICESTER-THA

It may not be the fairytale that Leicester was, and admittedly achieved through more crooked circumstances, but Ranieri had done it again.

Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong!

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