Claudio Ranieri must think he’s living football’s version of “Groundhog Day.”
Almost exactly 10 years after Jose Mourinho replaced him at Chelsea, the 62-year-old was dismissed as Monaco manager despite a successful campaign in which he guided the principality outfit to second spot in Ligue 1.
“We believe at this stage we need a new dynamic,” remarked Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev in making the Tuesday announcement, according to The Guardian.
The comparisons to his Chelsea exit are eerie, and telling.
Ahead of the 2003-04 season, the Blues—recently acquired by Roman Abramovich—spent more than £120 million on player acquisitions. They finished second to Arsenal the following spring and secured an automatic berth in the Champions League.
It wasn’t good enough. The professorial Ranieri didn’t fit the image of the “new Chelsea,” and at season’s end he was replaced by a 41-year-old Jose Mourinho.
Fast-forward to the present.
Ranieri, despite taking Monaco from the second division to the runners-up position in the French top flight—an improvement of 19 places—is once again out of a job for failing (if you can call it “failing”) to meet the objectives of a moneybags owner demanding not only the title but also a trendiness in both playing style and global perception.
And this despite the four-month absence of talismanic striker Radamel Falcao, who suffered a serious knee injury in January.
Falcao, incidentally, was part of a summer squad investment that surpassed €130 million and immediately amplified expectations in Fontvieille. Ranieri, who had arrived at the club while it was still in Ligue 2, was given initial control over potash magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev’s project, although there was always the feeling his tenure would only last as long as there wasn’t a younger, more fashionable option available to the Russian billionaire.
That option, it seems, came to be Sporting Lisbon manager Leonardo Jardim, who on Tuesday resigned his post at Estadio Jose Alvalade, as per Andy Brassell’s Twitter account.
Jardim, 39, oversaw Sporting’s return to title contention in 2013-14, and having worked in coaching since the age of 27 he is every bit the managerial prodigy, just as Mourinho was seen to be a decade ago.
Interestingly, Jardim’s previous stints at both Braga and Olympiacos—each of which was wildly successful while it lasted—ended acrimoniously, with a personality clash at the Portuguese side and a perception in Greece that his tactics were too negative.
In other words, his tenure at Monaco—should it transpire—will be no picnic, although his pragmatic approach could potentially yield the results the club are striving for.
Even so, it’s hard to frame Ranieri’s exit as anything other than unjust, and Monaco’s handling of their coaching situation as anything other than naive. For while it’s impossible to prove that the Italian would have delivered the title next season, it’s even more difficult to divine that the comparatively inexperienced Jardim will.
Monaco have essentially used Ranieri for his accidental specialty in turning a new, richly-assembled squad into something competitive before handing it over to a younger, trendier up-and-comer.
You could excuse Ranieri for thinking he’s seen this all before. And no doubt Monaco are hopeful their gamble turns out as well as Chelsea’s.