Showing posts with label Claudio Ranieri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Claudio Ranieri. Show all posts

6 October 2018

Ottavio Bianchi - football coach

The northerner who steered Napoli to first scudetto


Ottavio Bianchi was Napoli's coach for
four seasons from 1985 to 1989
Ottavio Bianchi, the coach who guided Napoli to their first Serie A title in the Italian football championship, was born on this day in 1943 in the northern Italian city of Brescia.

Napoli, who had been runners-up four times in Italy's elite league, broke their duck by winning the scudetto in the 1986-87 season, when Bianchi built his side around the forward line consisting initially of the World Cup-winning Argentina star Diego Maradona, the Italy strikers Bruno Giordano and Andrea Carnevale.  After the arrival of the Brazilian forward Careca to partner Maradona and Giordano, the trio become collectively known as MaGiCa

Bianchi’s team began the 1986-87 season with a 13-match unbeaten run. It came to an end with an away defeat against Fiorentina but Napoli lost only two more matches all season, winning the title by three points from Juventus to spark wild celebrations in Naples.

It is a reflection of how defensively-minded Italian football coaches were at the time that Napoli won the title despite scoring only 41 goals in 30 matches, with Maradona (10) the only individual player to reach double figures.

Bianchi, a midfielder, spent five years  with Napoli as a player
Bianchi, a midfielder, spent five years
 with Napoli as a player
Bianchi’s team also won the Coppa Italia in 1987 and, after finishing second in Serie A in 1987-88, the UEFA Cup in 1989, which is the club’s only European trophy so far.

Napoli won the Serie A title for a second time in 1989-90 but by then Bianchi had left to become coach of AS Roma.

Bianchi was born in the Borgo Trento area of Brescia, a city in Lombardy about 90km (56 miles) east of Milan, about halfway between the lakes of Iseo and Garda.

He joined the Brescia youth system and worked his way through the ranks to make his debut in the senior side in the Serie A in 1965.

A midfielder, he went on to enjoy an 18-year career in which me made 330 league appearances for six clubs, a third of which were in the colours of Napoli during a five-season spell at the Stadio San Paolo, as well as winning two caps for the Italy national team.

In addition, Bianchi had stints with Atalanta, AC Milan and Cagliari and finished his playing career with Ferrara-based SPAL.

Bianchi began his coaching career at lower division clubs such as Siena, Mantova, Triestina and Atalanta, where he won the Serie C1 championship.

Ottavio Bianchi, front row, centre, with his 1986-87 Serie A title-winning Napoli squad
Ottavio Bianchi, front row, centre, with his 1986-87
Serie A title-winning Napoli squad
He moved south for the first time in 1983-84 when he accepted an offer from Avellino, with whom he finished in 11th place in the Serie A. From there he returned to the north and newly-promoted Como where again he managed to reach a mid-table position.

The chance to join Napoli came a year after the arrival of Maradona, who was then in his early 20s and reaching his physical peak. The young South American, who had cost £6.9 million (15.87 billion lire) - at the time a world record fee - from Barcelona, had made an immediate impact, scoring 14 goals in his debut season as Napoli finished eighth in the Serie A table.

Bianchi’s success made him a coach in demand.  After four seasons, he moved to Roma, where he again won the Coppa Italia, and reached the final of the UEFA Cup, where they were beaten by domestic rivals Inter-Milan.

The fabled MaGiCa forward line - Diego Maradona (right), Bruno Giordano (left) and Careca (centre)
The fabled MaGiCa forward line - Diego Maradona (right),
Bruno Giordano (left) and Careca (centre)
Then came a return to Napoli in 1992 to replace Claudio Ranieri. Again he was successful, managing to transform a relegation-threatened team into one challenging for a UEFA Cup place. He remained as technical director, with Marcello Lippi as coach, but the lost important players such as Gianfranco Zola, Careca and Giovanni Galli due to financial difficulties as the club’s fortunes began to wane.

The following season Bianchi returned to the bench as coach of Inter-Milan. But he was not able to generate the success the Milan club had hoped for and he lost his job there in 1995, ironically sacked after a defeat against Napoli.

Since then, apart from a brief spell as Fiorentina’s coach in 2002, Bianchi’s involvement with football has been limited. He lives in Bergamo, which he made his home during his time with Atalanta, the city’s team, and confines his football watching largely to matches on TV.

The Piazza della Loggia, with the Torre dell'Orologio, is at the centre of the historic city of Brescia
The Piazza della Loggia, with the Torre dell'Orologio, is
at the centre of the historic city of Brescia
Travel tip:

The city of Brescia tends not to attract many tourists compared with nearby Bergamo or Verona, partly because of the counter-attraction of the lakes.  Yet it has plenty of history, going back to Roman times, and many points of interest, including two cathedrals – the unusually-shaped Duomo Vecchio and its neighbour, the Duomo Nuovo – and the attractive Piazza della Loggia, with a Renaissance palace, the Palazzo della Loggia, which is the town’s municipal centre.  The Torre dell’Orologio clock tower bears similarities to the one in St Mark’s Square in Venice, a reflection of the town becoming a protectorate of Venice in the 15th century.

Napoli's Stadio San Paolo has a capacity of more than 60,000, making it Italy's third largest football ground
Napoli's Stadio San Paolo has a capacity of more than
60,000, making it Italy's third largest football ground
Travel tip:

The home of SSC Napoli is the Stadio San Paolo, built in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood on the north side of the city and completed in 1959, more than 10 years after work began.  It is the third largest football ground in Italy with a capacity of 60,240, and hosted the 1990 World Cup semi-final between Italy and Argentina. The local council wanted to rename the ground Stadio Diego Maradona but Italian law prohibits the naming of a public building after any person who has not been dead at least 10 years.

More reading:

Gianfranco Zola, the Napoli favourite who became a great in England

Walter Mazzarri and the return of fallen giants Napoli

How Marcello Lippi won the World Cup in Germany

Also on this day:

1888: The birth of wartime nurse Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin

1935: The birth of champion wrestler Bruno Sammartino


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27 April 2018

Vittorio Cecchi Gori - entrepreneur

Ex-president of Fiorentina who produced two of Italy’s greatest films


Former Fiorentina owner and film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Former Fiorentina owner and film
producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose chequered career in business saw him produce more than 300 films and own Fiorentina’s football club but also saw him jailed for fraudulent bankruptcy, was born on this day in 1942 in Florence.

The son of Mario Cecchi Gori, whose production company he inherited, he provided the financial muscle behind two of Italy’s greatest films of recent years, Il Postino (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

He was also involved with the 1992 Oscar winner Mediterraneo, directed by Gabriele Salvatores, which also won in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Vittorio’s legacy from his father also included Fiorentina football club, of which he was president from 1993 to 2002.

Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
With Cecchi Gori’s backing, while his involvement with the movie business was generating such huge profits, Fiorentina enjoyed great times.  He invested heavily in new players and persuaded the club’s icon, the Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta, to stay after the viola were relegated in 1993.

With Claudio Ranieri as coach, they won the Coppa Italia in 1996, their first trophy in 20 years, following it up by winning the Super Cup later the same year and another Coppa Italia in 2001. In the 1999-2000 season they had played in the Champions League for the first time.

Yet the impetuous entrepreneur was to run into serious financial difficulties in subsequent years and went from revered to reviled in Florence after his own business collapse became Fiorentina’s collapse also.

His problems began in 1995, when he mounted an ambitious challenge against Italy’s television duopoly, held by the public broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest.

Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori bought up some small TV companies used their infrastructure to create a new channel, La7, and formulating an ambitious plan to acquire the rights to televise Serie A, the top division of the Italian Football League. He failed to secure them, however, ratings hit an all-time low and the new channel was sold for a huge loss.

An expensive divorce did not help, plunging him into huge personal debt, and in 2001 it was revealed that Fiorentina had debts equating to $50 million.  Their fortunes on the field were in decline also and things came to a head at the end of the 2001-02 season, when they were relegated from Serie A and promptly entered judicially-controlled administration, a form of bankruptcy.  Because of this, they were refused a place in Serie B for the following season and had to start again in Serie C, the third division, after effectively winding up the historic club and starting a new one.

At the same time, Cecchi Gori’s business empire was collapsing.   Prized assets such as his luxurious apartment in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome, the Multisala Adriano, his Rome cinema complex, and his film library were sold to raise funds, but to no avail.

Police investigations into his affairs dogged him for years.  In 2006 he was found guilty of illegally redirecting millions of dollars from Fiorentina into other businesses and in 2013 received a six-year jail term in connection with the bankruptcy of his production company, Safin Cinematografica.

Until his business problems, Cecchi Gori served as a member of the Italian Senate between 1994 and 2001, having been elected as a member of the centre-right Partito Popolare Italiano.

Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Travel tip:

In a city best known for its magnificent Renaissance architecture, the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Fiorentina, is notable as a classic of early 20th century design. Opened in 1931, it was designed by the renowned architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed entirely of reinforced concrete with a 70m (230 ft) tower that bears the stadium's flagstaff. Originally called Stadio Giovanni Berta, after a local Fascist, it was changed to Stadio Comunale before taking the name of Franchi, then Italian Football Federation president, in 1991.

The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo Borghese overlooks the Tiber
The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo
Borghese overlooks the Tiber
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Borghese, where Cecchi Gori had an apartment valued at almost €10 million, is a palace in Rome that was originally the home of the powerful Borghese family, who settled in Rome in the 16th century and also owned the Villa Borghese and surrounding gardens. The palace was nicknamed il Cembalo - the harpsichord - due to its unusual trapezoid shape, with its narrowest rear facade facing the Tiber river. The front facade - the keyboard of the harpsichord - opening on to the Fontanella di Borghese. The first floor has housed the Spanish Embassy since 1947.

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9 November 2017

Alessandro Del Piero – World Cup winner

Former striker is all-time record goalscorer for Juventus


Alessandro del Piero played for 19 seasons at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
Alessandro Del Piero played for 19 seasons
at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
The retired footballer Alessandro Del Piero, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and holds the club records for most goals (290) and most appearances (705) for Juventus, was born on this day in 1974 in Conegliano in the Veneto.

Regarded as one of Italy’s greatest players, his overall goals tally of 346 in Italian football in all competitions has been bettered only once in history, by Silvio Piola, who was a member of Italy’s winning team in the 1938 World Cup and who scored 390 goals in his career.  Del Piero also finished his career having scored at least one goal in every competition in which he took part.

Del Piero was a member of six Serie A title-winning Juventus teams between 1995 and 2012 and would have had eight winner’s medals had the club not been stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles due to the so-called Calciopoli corruption scandal.

He also won a Champions League medal in 1996 after Marcello Lippi’s team beat Ajax on penalties to lift the trophy in Rome.

Del Piero played in three World Cups but was never able to reproduce his club form more than fleetingly in any of them.  He started only one match in the 2006 triumph of the Azzurri in Germany.

Del Piero leaving the stadium after his  World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Del Piero leaving the stadium after his
World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Nonetheless, he came off the bench in extra time to score the important second goal in the epic semi-final victory against the hosts.  In the final, against France, again a substitute, he scored from the penalty spot as Italy put together a perfect shoot-out to win 5-3 on penalties.

The son of an electrician, Gino, and his wife, Bruna, Del Piero dreamed of being a footballer but at one time considered a career as a lorry driver, because he thought it might provide his best chance of seeing other countries.

The family lived in Saccon, a hamlet outside Conegliano, and he played for his local youth team in San Vendemiano. He initially played in goal, which pleased his mother as she imagined there was less chance he would be injured, before he was persuaded by his brother, Stefano, that he would be wasted as a goalkeeper as he was as skilful as any of the team’s outfield players, if not better.

Stefano, who played professionally himself for Sampdoria before injury curtailed his career, went on to become his brother’s agent.

Del Piero’s first senior club was Padova, whose youth set-up he joined at the age of 13, making his senior debut aged 16 and his Serie B debut aged 17 in March 1992.  He scored his first senior goal in November of the same year.

Juventus signed him in 1993 for the sum of five billion lire and he would remain with the Turin side for 19 seasons under 11  managers, including Giovanni Trapattoni, who gave him his debut, Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte.

Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after ending his time at Juventus in 2012
Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after
ending his time at Juventus in 2012
It was clear from the start that he was going to be a goalscoring sensation.  He scored his first goal for the club on his second appearance as a substitute and marked his first start for the senior team with a hat-trick.

When Lippi succeeded Trapattoni, Del Piero began to play regularly after Roberto Baggio suffered a serious injury, taking his place alongside Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli and scoring eight goals as Juventus won the Serie A title for the first time in nine years.

There were similarities between his style of play and that of Baggio.  Both were technically very accomplished and both had the imagination to create goalscoring opportunities for themselves and others.  Gianni Agnelli, the club’s patriarchal former president, nicknamed him Pinturicchio after a Renaissance artist on the basis that his nickname for Baggio was Rafaello – Raphael – and Pinturicchio had been Raphael’s pupil.

In 19 seasons, inevitably, there were ups and downs, managers who appreciated his qualities and others who were less enthusiastic, but he inevitably retained the affection of the fans, not least when, as captain, he chose to remain with the club after their enforced relegation following the Calciopoli scandal, when many other stars left. He insisted that he owed the Agnelli family a debt of loyalty and would lead them back from Serie B to Serie A, which he did at the first attempt despite starting the season with a nine-point deduction.

It was Antonio Conte, his former team-mate, who would call time on Del Piero’s Juventus career when he announced at the start of the 2011-12 season that he would be using the player, by then almost 37, only sparingly.  Later in the season the club announced he would be released at the end of the campaign.

Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even in difficult times
Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even
in difficult times
Nonetheless, he scored some important goals, including one, against Lazio in April 2012, that would enable them to go top of the table on the way to regaining the title.  Ironically, he had come on as a half-time substitute for Mirko Vucinic, the Montenegrin striker Conte had signed as his replacement.

He made his final appearance in a Serie A match on May 13 against Atalanta, in the last match of the season and with the title already won.  He scored – his 208th league goal for the club – and when he was substituted he received an ovation from fans and both sets of players that went on for so long the match had to be halted as he completed a lap of honour.  There were similar scenes when he was taken off towards the end of the Coppa Italia final a few days later, his last match in the famous black and white shirt.

He played on for a couple of seasons in Australia and India on lucrative contracts before hanging up his boots for good in 2015. Since then he has pursued his interest in music – he is a friend of the musician Noel Gallagher, of Oasis fame – and done considerable work with charities.  He has made many appearances on television and is currently a regular pundit on Sky Sport Italia.

Married since 2005 to Sonia Amoruso, he has three children, sons Tobias and Sasha and a daughter, Dorotea.

One of Conegliano's ancient gates
One of Conegliano's ancient gates
Travel tip:

Conegliano is a town of almost 35,000 people in the Veneto, about 30km (19 miles) north of Treviso.  The remains of a 10th century castle, once owned by the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, stands on a hill that dominates the town.  Conegliano is at the centre of a wine-producing region and is famous in particular for Prosecco, the popular sparkling wine made from the glera grape.

Travel tip:

Padua, known as Padova in Italian, where Del Piero began his career, is a city in the Veneto known among other things for the frescoes by Giotto in the  Scrovegni Chapel and the huge 13th-century Basilica di Sant’Antonio, with its seven Byzantine-style cupolas and four cloisters. The basilica contains many notable artworks and the saint’s tomb. The town itself is particularly appealing for its arcaded streets and stylish cafes.


5 July 2017

Gianfranco Zola – footballer

Brilliant forward voted Chelsea’s all-time greatest player


Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea
in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola, a sublimely talented footballer whose peak years were spent with Napoli, Parma and Chelsea, was born on this day in 1966 in the Sardinian town of Oliena.

Capped 35 times by the Italian national team, Zola scored more than 200 goals in his club career, the majority of them playing at the highest level, including 90 in Italy’s top flight – Serie A – and 58 in the English Premier League.

He specialised in the spectacular, most of his goals resulting from his brilliant execution of free kicks or his dazzling ball control.

Zola went on to be a manager after his playing career ended, although he has so far been unable to come anywhere near matching his achievements as a player.

He was probably at his absolute peak during the seven years he spent playing in England with Chelsea, whose fans named him as the club’s greatest player of all time in a poll conducted in 2003, shortly before he left to return to Sardinia.

However, it was probably the four years he spent with Napoli, his first Serie A club, that were his making as a player, after being spotted playing club football in Sardinia for Nuorese and Torres.

Zola was signed in 1989 and although his appearances at first were limited, he developed a close bond with the club’s Argentinian icon, Diego Maradona, often spending hours alongside him after normal training had finished, trying to emulate his skills, especially in taking free kicks.

He would later comment that he “learned everything from Diego.”

Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Although he was essentially still a fringe player at that stage, Zola scored two goals as Napoli won Serie A in 1989-90, giving him his only league winner’s medal.

When Maradona left under a cloud, having been banned from playing for drug offences, Zola took his mantle, largely on the maestro’s recommendation, to which manager Claudio Ranieri responded by giving Zola the No 10 shirt worn by Maradona.

Napoli were not the force they had been without Maradona, yet Zola scored 12 goals in the 1991-92 season and another 12 in the 1992-93 campaign, in which he also made 12 assists, giving him the accolade alongside Fiorentina’s Francesco Baiano of providing the most assists over the Serie A season.

He scored 32 goals in 105 appearances for Napoli, whom he left in 1993 only because the club, in a difficult financial situation, began to sell off their best players to pay debts.

Transferred to Parma for 13 billion lire, Zola established himself as one of the best creative players in Italy alongside Roberto Baggio and Alessandro del Piero.  He scored 18 goals in his first season and 19 in his second campaign as the giallobl├╣ just missed out on the Serie A title in a hard-fought battle with Juventus.

Favoured by manager Nevio Scala, he was less popular with Scala’s successor, Carlo Ancelotti, who could not accommodate Zola’s talents in his 4-4-2 system, leaving the player too often a frustrated figure on the bench, despite his record of 49 goals in 102 appearances.

News that Zola was unsettled began to circulate and in November 1996, Chelsea’s then-manager, Ruud Gullit, pulled off what would come to be regarded as one of the biggest transfer coups in Premier League history, signing Zola for £4.5 million.

He lit up the Premier League, helping Chelsea win the FA Cup twice, the League Cup, the Charity Shield, the UEFA Cup-Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.  He helped them qualify for the UEFA Champions League twice as they finished third in the Premier League in 1999 and fourth in 2003, with Zola their leading goalscorer on each occasion.

Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham manager, has not found success as a coach
Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham
manager, has not found success as a coach
His goals were often either big-match winners, such as in the 1996-97 FA Cup semi-final against Wimbledon or the 1997-98 Cup-Winners’ Cup final winner, when he scored within seconds of coming off the subs’ bench, or else works of art, none more celebrated than the mid-air backheel he executed to score from a corner in an FA Cup tie against Norwich in 2001-02.

Zola scored 16 times in what would be his final season at Stamford Bridge, having decided he would finish his career back in Sardinia with the island’s top club, Cagliari.  A week after he gave his word to Cagliari that he would be their player in 2003-04, Roman Abramovich completed his takeover of Chelsea.

The Russian billionaire was desperate to keep Zola at Stamford Bridge but the Italian told him he would not renege on his promise.  Rumour has it that Abramovich even considered buying the entire Cagliari club in order to transfer Zola back to Chelsea.

In the event, Zola kept his promise, helping Cagliari gain promotion to Serie A in his first season, before retiring at the end of the 2004-05 season, scoring twice against Juventus in his final match.

Capped 35 times by Italy, scoring 10 goals and playing in the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, Zola then moved into coaching, at first as assistant to his friend and former Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi in the Italy Under-21 set-up, then in club football.

However, his management career has so far been dismal compared with his playing career.  He has managed West Ham, Watford and Birmingham City in England, Cagliari in Italy and Al-Arabi in Qatar, but has been either sacked or obliged to resign from all five posts because of poor results.

Married to Franca, Zola has three children. His son, Andrea, has played for West Ham reserves and for Essex non-League club Grays Athletic.

A church and market in Oliena
A church and market in Oliena
Travel tip:

Oliena, a mountainous town notable for its multi-coloured rooftops, sits in the shadow of Monte Corrasi, towards the north of the island of Sardina, about 100km (62 miles) south of Olbia and 200km (124 miles) north of Cagliari. Probably founded in Roman times, it is famous now for beautiful silk embroidery and its red wine, Nepente di Oliena.

The waterfront at Cagliari
The waterfront at Cagliari
Travel tip:

Cagliari is Sardinia’s capital, an industrial centre and one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. Yet it is also a city of considerable beauty and history, most poetically described by the novelist DH Lawrence when he visited in the 1920s. He set his eyes on the confusion of domes, palaces and ornamental facades which, he noted, seemed to be piled on top of one another as he approached from the sea. He compared it to Jerusalem, describing it as 'strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’





20 October 2016

Claudio Ranieri - football manager

Title-winning Leicester City boss is 65 today


Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri
Football manager Claudio Ranieri was born on this day in 1951 in Rome.

Ranieri, who won the English Premier League last season with rank outsiders Leicester City, has managed 14 clubs in four countries in a 30-year career in coaching.  He also had a stint in charge of the Greece national team.

Among the teams he has coached are a host of big names - Internazionale, Juventus, Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina in Italy, Atletico Madrid and Valencia in Spain, Monaco in France and Chelsea in England.

He has won titles in lower divisions as well as Italy's Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey in Spain but until Leicester defied pre-season odds of 5,000-1 to win the Premier League, a major league championship had eluded him.  He had finished second three times, with Chelsea, Roma and Monaco.

Before turning to coaching, Ranieri was a player for 14 seasons. He began in Serie A with home-town club Roma, but enjoyed more success in the lower divisions, enjoying promotion twice with the Calabrian club Catanzaro, where he spent the biggest part of his career, and once each with the Sicilian teams Catania and Palermo.

Ranieri was born in the San Saba district of Rome, not far from the ancient Baths of Caracalla and Circus Maximus in an area teeming with Roman ruins.  His father, Mario, was a butcher in neighbouring Testaccio, one of Rome's traditional working class neighbourhoods. His mother, Renata, now 96, still lives in Rome and Claudio regularly flies home to see her.

Where Testaccio, now increasingly popular with Rome's young professionals, was designed and built with blue collar workers in mind, San Saba is more middle-class historically, an area of houses rather than apartment buildings, with more urban green spaces such as the Piazza Gian Lorenzo Bernini, where Claudio and his friends would play football.

Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Claudio Ranieri celebrates with Leicester City's
prolific striker Jamie Vardy
Ranieri's early life was spent largely confined to these two neighbourhoods and nearby Aventine Hill, which affords panoramic views of the city.

A Roma fan for as long as he can remember, Ranieri dreamed of playing for the giallorossi and after being spotted by a scout he realised his ambition. He was taken on for a trial, given a contract and made his debut in November 1973 as a defender.  He was unfazed by playing in front of 80,000 fans and continuing to help out in the family business on his day off kept him grounded.

Sadly, the dream did not turn into a place in Roma folklore, as the young Ranieri might have hoped.  By the following summer, having made just six appearances, it was clear he was not going to be in the team on a regular basis and he moved to the deep south of Italy to Catanzaro, in the part of Calabria that sits in the arch of the boot on the map of Italy, to play in Serie B.

It was a world away from the frenzied pace of Roman life and Ranieri felt a little like an alien but the eight years he spent there shaped his life in many ways.

Catanzaro's team included many outsiders and they formed a bond of friendship that remains strong to this day. Indeed, until recently, the team's goalkeeper, Giorgio Pellizzaro, was Ranieri's specialist goalkeeping coach.

They became a good team on the field, too, winning promotion to Serie A twice in his time there, the second time staying for five years.

Off the field, it was while playing for Catanzaro that Ranieri met his wife, Rosanna, the daughter of a football journalist.  The couple had a daughter, Claudia and bought a villa at nearby Copanello, overlooking the Ionian Sea, where they still spend their summers. Ranieri also has a house at Formello, a town about 30km north of Rome in the Monti Sabatini area of Lazio.

Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor Alessandro Roja
Ranieri's son-in-law, the actor
Alessandro Roja
Claudia is now married to the Roman actor, Alessandro Roja, who starred in the drama series Romanzo Criminale, set in the Rome underworld in the 1970s.  Rosanna runs two antiques shops in Rome.

Ranieri's character, well-mannered, good humoured, calm under pressure, is said by some to be more typically Calabrian than Roman but, as the Italian writer Gabriele Marcotti explains in an excellent biography - Hail, Claudio! - to be published next month, there is a steel behind the charm.

An example came when he had left Catanzaro for Catania, where he was made captain.  When the manager, the former Catanzaro player Gianni di Marzio, was sacked after Catania, newly promoted, had made a poor start in Serie A, Ranieri was so furious he stormed into the office of the club president to make his feelings known, and repeated them in a television interview soon afterwards.

He was sure he would be sacked as well for speaking his mind and effectively humiliating the president, an autocratic millionaire not known for his patience. Instead, after recovering from the shock, the president decided that if Ranieri was man enough to stand up to him in that way he was too good an asset to lose.

UPDATE: Since leaving Leicester City in 2017, Ranieri has increased the number of coaching positions he has held to 21. As of his 72nd birthday on October 20, 2023, he was in charge of Serie A club Cagliari for the second time in his career.

The original structure of the Basilica of Santa Sabina dates back to the fifth century
The original structure of the Basilica of Santa
Sabina dates back to the fifth century
Travel tip:


The Aventine Hill, which Ranieri knew well as a boy, has many attractions, apart from the ruins of the Roman chariot racing stadium, Circus Maximus, and the Baths of Caracalla.  The historic Basilica of Santa Sabina, which dates back to the fifth century, is just one of several notable churches, while the area's elevated position offers outstanding views of the Rome, particularly from the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges), overlooking the Tiber. A more unusual view is to be had from the Villa del Priorato di Malta, on Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, where crowds gather to peer through the keyhole in the wooden doors at the main gate, which provides a perfectly framed view of the dome of St Peter's Basilica.




The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be  found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
The waterfront at Catanzaro Lido, which can be 
found 15km (9 miles) from the city of Catanzaro
Travel tip:


Occupying a position 300mt (980ft) above the Gulf of Squillace, Catanzaro is known as the City of the Two Seas because, from some vantage points, it is possible to see the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north of the long peninsula occupied by Calabria as well as the Ionian Sea to the south.  The historic centre, which sits at the highest point of the city, includes a 16th century cathedral built on the site of a 12th century Norman cathedral which, despite being virtually destroyed by bombing in 1943, has been impressively restored.  The city is about 15km (9 miles) from Catanzaro Lido, which has a long white beach typical of the Gulf of Squillace.

More reading:



Books:


Hail, Claudio! The Man, The Manager, The Miracle, by Gabriele Marcotti (Yellow Jersey)

(Photo of Alessandro Roja by Laura Penna CC BY 2.0)
(Photo of the view from the Giardino degli Aranci by Marten253 CC BY-SA 3.0)



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