Claudio Ranieri walked into a situation that most other managers would’ve ran away from. Roma were in shambles before he arrived and despite him steadying the ship during his brief interim tenure, he won’t be back in a permanent role next season. Thus, Sunday will be emotional for Ranieri in more ways than one, as Roma close out the season against Parma. Before he wraps up his brief second tenure with Roma, Ranieri sat down with Roma’s official site for the latest in its ‘The Big Interview’ Series.
To open the interview Ranieri reflected on his three months in charge.
“Overall, I feel positive. When I arrived here, there was a sense of disappointment around the team – the boys were downbeat because they had high hopes. I must say that here at Trigoria, I’ve had everyone’s support, including that of the team – they’ve been able to react, demonstrating positivity and desire.
”Nobody can come in and wave a magic wand. In the first game, we were rather lucky against Empoli, then we had the matches against SPAL and Napoli. From then on, our tactical strategy has been tweaked. I needed to make the defenders feel better protected and, little by little, things have improved for us. This team has a positive future, because there are young and talented players here. I’m sure they will do well.”
Ranieri continued on by talking about some of the positives and negatives from his time in charge. At the same time he pledged that Roma would fight to the end despite its slim Champions League hopes.
In terms of positives, I think of the defensive solidity we have, which was previously lacking. One negative is the goal we conceded in stoppage time against Genoa, even though Antonio Mirante made that crucial save minutes afterwards. Plus there’s the game with Sassuolo, where we created more chances than we have in any other game but failed to score.
”There’s still a remote possibility that we get a Champions League place. We’ll need to score five and see what happens in the other matches. We’ll do our best. That’s the sort of person I am – I never give up and always strive, until the very end. If we don’t manage it, credit to the other teams.”
Ranieri predictably chose the Juve match as his most memorable in charge of the team.
“Perhaps the game against Juventus – that was great. Mirante did make three outstanding saves but that’s what a goalkeeper is there to do. How many did Alisson make last season? We capitalised at the right time and managed to win the game, making our fans at the Stadio Olimpico very happy.”
Conversely, the match at Genoa, which put a big dent in Roma’s Champions League hopes, was described by Ranieri as the most disappointing result.
“Yes – that’s the one. It wouldn’t have been an easy one to win – we found the opening we needed to get the goal, but then conceding from a set piece, given the qualities of our defence, was really disappointing. It would have given us momentum going into the match with Juventus, with the fans even more up for the game. With those two points we’d have had a better chance of getting into the Champions League too.”
Ranieri sung the praises of two players who were much maligned before his arrival in the capital.
“I think [Federico] Fazio and [Steven] Nzonzi have shown how good they are. We were already aware of Federico’s ability, but Steven hadn’t yet won over the fans. He’s a player I tried to get when I was at Leicester, when N’golo Kante left. The fact he knew I rated him perhaps gave him that boost to show what he’s made of.
”He always plays with two touches and he’s like an octopus in the way he’s able to win the ball back. He needs to improve his forward passing but he’s a player that doesn’t take too many risks and plays for his team-mates. He reminds me of Thiago Motta at Inter. He always knows where he is, remains calm and makes himself available to the team. I think he’s been a great purchase for Roma.”
Ranieri also spoke on the club’s future. While he sees the club having a bright future, Ranieri seemed to put a damper on expectations for next season.
“We’ll need to see how the team changes next year and find out which manager is coming in. This team is still fighting, in a season that hasn’t gone well. I don’t want to put pressure on my successor – that would be too easy. What I mean is this is a good team, which has always got into the Champions League in recent years.
”If we say the next team should go for Europa League qualification, we’re keeping a lid on expectations. Should the team then have a good season, getting into the Champions League, then that would come as a nice surprise. That’s the way I’ve always been. I think it’s better not to raise fans’ expectations and, as a result, those of managers, the club and everyone around it.
“If we manage to qualify for the Champions League in the game against Parma, obviously that will bring in more money for the club. The club has always been clear that they want to keep the balance sheet in order and I think that’s right. When I came back here, I saw lots of changes, compared to the last time I was coach – it shows that money has been spent and things have been done in the right way. Obviously fans aren’t concerned by all those things behind the scenes – all they care about is seeing their team fight out on the pitch. It’s fair for a fan to think in those terms. As a coach, I can say that there’s a great set up here, a great club that is on the up.”
Ranieri reiterated his love for the club multiple times throughout the interview. Ranieri has a passion for the club that only a supporter ever really feels. Emotions run high for him every time he steps into the dugout and you’d expect those to be ramped up even further.
“Every time I’m in the Roma dugout, I get emotional. I always arrive out on the pitch after the anthem, because otherwise I get too emotional. I want to stay cool and have a clear head. Since it’s my last game, I must thank the club president, who gave me the opportunity to guide the team I love once again.”
“Roma mean everything to me. Which fan wouldn’t accept the opportunity to manage the team they love, even for just one game? I got the call at a difficult time. Had it been another team, I’d never have said yes – I would never have taken such a risk. Can you imagine, had we carried on losing after the matches against SPAL and Napoli? I would have had all the criticism.
”I thought all of those things, but love takes you beyond cold and practical reasoning. I agreed to take this risk. My whole career has been like this – before Leicester I finished second with Roma, Juventus, Monaco, but those are teams I arrived at in times of difficulty. A team has never been built around me as the coach.”
Ranieri also spoke on Sunday’s hot topic, which is a departure that will dwarf his own. Of course, that is the end of Daniele De Rossi’s tenure with the club. He was asked if that would make the day even more emotional for himself.
“It will be for him, as it will be for the fans, who’ll be seeing Daniele for the last time with the captain’s armband and Roma shirt out on that pitch. Every fan has identified with him, because of that desire and fighting spirit he’s always shown. I hope we see a loving farewell for him.”
These are just some highlights of the interview. You can find the full length interview here where Ranieri talks about a myriad of topics including his tactics, the stadium situation, the differences between Italian and English football, and Totti’s role as a director.