Claudio Ranieri decided to retire from club coaching at the end of the 2023/24 campaign after guiding Cagliari to safety in his second spell at club, allowing his impressive career to close out having come full circle.

After a few short stints at small clubs in Southern Italy, the Roman made his coaching career breakthrough with the Isolani in the late 1980s, and Ranieri developed a reputation for creating teams that possessed a great work ethic and fighting spirit.

Claudio Ranieri applauds Cagliari fans after sealing survival in Serie A. (@CagliariCalcio)

When Ranieri appeared in the media, the 72-year-old often had a smile and was politely-spoken, which contrasted with many of his peers, who were either cold and expressionless, or loud and volatile.

In a near-40-year coaching career, Ranieri has worked in his native Italy, Spain, England, and France at club level, and he had a brief spell as Greece Men’s National Team coach in 2014.

His career high came with his miraculous English Premier League win with minnows Leicester City in 2015/16, and was a rare example in modern football of an underdog story and the nice guy coming first.

Rising with Cagliari, working with Zola and getting the best out of Batistuta

Claudio Ranieri. (@sampdoria)

Ranieri was appointed as Cagliari coach in the summer of 1988, and he guided the Sardinians to two consecutive promotions from Serie C1 to Serie A, then ensuring their safety in the top flight in 1990/91.

A spell with Napoli in the post-Diego Maradona era lasted less than two seasons but he worked with the mercurial Gianfranco Zola, who he would later coach at Chelsea in his first role in England. He then coached Fiorentina from 1993 to 1997, winning the Coppa Italia in 1995/96 – his first major trophy as coach – and taking the Gigliati to the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in the following season.

During his time in Florence, he was able to count on the goals of legendary Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta, the creative talents of Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa, and the superb shot-stopping of goalkeeper Francesco Toldo.

First forays abroad and coaching Italian giants

Claudio Ranieri applauds Cagliari fans after sealing survival in Serie A. (@CagliariCalcio)

After his time in Florence, Ranieri coached Valencia and Atletico Madrid in Spain. He won the 1998/99 Copa del Rey with Los Che, but he was sacked whilst coaching an Atleti side struggling to survive in La Liga.

His first spell in England was with Chelsea in the early 2000s, where he gained the nickname ‘The Tinkerman’ for his habit of rotating players and changing tactics frequently. He did work with Zola again as well as playing a huge role in the development of other Blues legends’ careers in Frank Lampard and John Terry.

Ranieri took the West London club to the 2003/04 Champions League semi-finals and finished second in the Premier League, but Roman Abramovich sacked him due to a lack of silverware.

After another spell with Valencia, he returned to Italy to coach Parma, Juventus, AS Roma, and Inter, finishing second in Serie A with the Bianconeri and Giallorossi, but getting sacked from the Nerazzurri as they struggled in the post-Jose Mourinho era.

A Greek tragedy to a Leicester fairytale

A brief and horrible spell coaching Greece lasted just four matches, and Ranieri’s coaching career was in limbo. Leicester City had just survived relegation in the English Premier League, but ‘The Tinkerman’ was hired by the Foxes for the 2015/16 season. What happened next was one of the greatest miracles in the history of football.

With Kasper Schmeichel in goal, N’Golo Kante constantly winning the ball in midfield, Riyad Mahrez dazzling on the right wing, and Jamie Vardy scoring goals for fun, the loveable Roman coach inspired the team to the most unlikely Premier League title win. The bridesmaid became the bride, this nice guy did not come last, and he went from being ‘The Tinkerman’ to becoming ‘The Thinkerman’.

Other monikers were coined such as ‘Sir Claudio’ and ‘King Claudio’, and he popularised the saying “dilly ding, dilly dong” as a way to wake up his players if they were not alert. As a mark of respect, opera singer Andrea Bocelli sang for Ranieri in Leicester‘s title celebrations.

After his time with the Foxes, he coached Nantes in France, Fulham and Watford in England, and went back to Italy with AS Roma for another ship-steadying stint as well as Sampdoria before his second spell at Cagliari.

When a club needed someone to instill some belief in the squad or move away from an authoritarian approach, Claudio Ranieri was the man for the job. His warmth and humility will missed in the world of football.