The jolly old manager of Leicester City, Claudio Ranieri, is gone. Fifa’s best manager for 2016 has been sacked.
Though sacked, he will not be forgotten because of the miracle he wrought with a rag-tag bunch of players, as they gazumped every pundit and commentator to snatch the 2015/16 English Premier League title.
The odds were 5000-1, but they triumphed even though it still cannot be scientifically explained.
Whether by luck or that all the planets aligned – Leicester won and in the process the players and the manager became Hollywood material.
Nine months from that glorious triumph, the Foxes have tumbled down the ladder under Ranieri and the prospect of relegation has become a real existential truth, hence the parting of ways as explained by the club.
But as we know in football as in life and with the benefit of hindsight drawn from the wisdom of stellar managers like Nigel Clough, Peter Taylor and more recently Sir Alex Ferguson, Ranieri should have carved up that winning team, especially based on the fact that they had never won anything before this!
In the book, ‘With Clough by Taylor’, it is said, “A manager should always be looking for signs of disintegration in a winning side and then sell the players responsible before their deterioration is noticed by possible buyers.”
Ranieri failed to heed this advice; but if he had, these are the five players that should have been sold.
Jaime Vardy – The real fulcrum of Leicester’s rise last season was the goals of Vardy. At the end of the season, with the additional prominence of a call-up to the England national team added, Arsenal made a bid that was rejected. He should have been sold and another recruited for whom Vardy’s record would have been the benchmark.
Wes Morgan – The captain of the team is a journey-man at best and what must be termed a one-season wonder. Even if he was not sold, someone else should have been brought in to wrest away his position. This season, he is showing all of his 33 years; with a 36-year-old, Marcin Wasilewski, as his back-up. It was always going to be a disaster.
Christian Fuchs – The former Schalke 04 defender came to the EPL for a last pay day as he was definitely winding down his career. The EPL title happened to him – he was not expecting it and because of that he should have been duly sold or demoted. This season, Fuchs looks dishevelled and uncoordinated in his play. He is not playing like a 30-year-old but more like an 18-year-old rookie because he has already given all he had!
Riyad Mahrez – Watching the little Algerian last season was akin to seeing Lionel Messi in the EPL in flesh. Skilful, fast and inventive, the left-footer was the team’s best offensive player by a mile. And he really would have improved further if he had transferred to a club with more pedigree and better players. Assume that he had been sold to Chelsea; he would have had to raise his game to get in the team ahead of the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro. But at Leicester, he can be relaxed knowing that the manager has no other choice but him. A case in point is N’Golo Kante, who has had to raise his game after his transfer.
Andy King – The stalwart of the journey from League 2 to the EPL and then the title should have been ushered out of the club. Not being a guaranteed starter meant that the sale of Kante opened a door that Ranieri could not close. So from being an offensive midfielder, he settled for a defensive position to get in the team – an equation which definitely unbalanced the Foxes.
Even through all of this, Leicester would still have struggled to maintain top four or even top six but they would not be fighting for their lives in 17th position with 13 games left in the season.