Chances are that your employer doesn’t give a fuck about you. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone either, because we all know it. We’re all just numbers that, regardless of overall performance, are judged in a short, recent timeframe, and in many ways, I understand that; the world moves at such a rapid pace that, no matter what you do for a living, if you’re not cutting it on a day-to-day basis, chances are you’ll be given your P45. Loyalty is an ancient concept that’s only upheld by those of us that refuse to call Starburst anything other than Opal Fruits, and not others. It also cost Claudio Ranieri his job.
On February 12, Leicester City lost 2-0 to fellow relegation strugglers Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. In his post-match press conference, Ranieri was asked about the loyalty he feels to the heroes of last season such as goal-scoring legend, Jamie Vardy; Algerian magician, Riyad Mahrez; and captain fantastic, Wes Morgan, et al. The Rome-born manager said, “I could be [too loyal, could be…It is difficult when you achieve something so good, you want to give them one chance, two chances, three chances. Maybe now, it is too much.” He was spot on; it was too much. Little did Claudio know, his employer would terminate his contract a fortnight later, making him the scapegoat.
Claudio Ranieri, who lead Leicester City to Premier League glory in 2015/16, has been sacked as manager of the club. I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings leading up to this inevitability; they’re 17th in the league, a point off relegation, and look like your Sunday league’s under-12s would give them a hammering — but how much of that is solely down to the man who suffered a similar fate at his last post with Greece? While Ranieri questions whether loyalty was the right tactic, that is something his players haven’t shown him in return. Recently, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez would both look more at home at Fleetwood Town, rather than playing Champions League football against Sevilla; the centre-half pairing of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan has had more holes in it than a poorly constructed sentence from the mouth of the current US president; and the midfield have proven that without one man, they are nothing.
The N’Golo Kante discussion has raged on and on since the reigning champions’ defeat against Hull on the opening day of the season, and I’m not going to bring much new to the table. Shock, horror, he’s a very good player. But I’d argue that while Kante was the star man in Leicester’s 38 games of glory, it was a team effort. From top to bottom, everyone put in a shift and got them to a place where, on paper, they had no right being — it has been the polar opposite this year. Ranieri spoke about how he was too loyal to his players, giving them chance after chance to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke, and that they could at least get to that magic 40 points, but they haven’t even come close. Ranieri has to be held somewhat accountable — he did sign Islam Slimani for £25.5 million, and didn’t tinker (funny, huh?) when teams knew how to play against their system— but the way this team of champions have faltered is astonishing. I doubt Arsenal will be in for Jamie, this Summer. No one expected Leicester City to win the league this year, but the romantic in all of us wanted them to at least show a bit of effort and aim to become a Stoke City, or an Everton — a dependable group of lads that may even snag a Europa League spot. The realist in all of us knew they’d finish a little bit lower, but gain safety pretty easily by finishing somewhere mid-table, but how wrong we all were.
Yes, Ranieri is the manager and the buck stops with him. He should’ve added substantially in January, and made better signings in the Summer, but the lack of loyalty the board have shown him tonight is nothing short of appalling. Never again — NEVER AGAIN — will Leicester City even challenge in the top flight of English football, let alone win the fucking thing, and while a man that’s running riot at Chelsea has a large claim to that trophy, Ranieri moulded a squad of also-rans into a team, and that can’t be understated. Obviously, the heroics of last season haven’t been enough to keep Claudio from drawing a weekly wage at the club, and he must move on to his next insurmountable challenge, wherever that may be.
A phrase we use on The Football Huddle podcast a lot is “we’re in the three points business,” and that’s very true — what have you done for me, lately (See Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, last season)? And the same can be said of any job, not just those ones where the media are scrutinising you over your every move. But I feel that Ranieri’s triumph last season was worth a little more than what he’s been given. He fought the big boys and won; it’s the ultimate underdog story.
The one thing Ranieri showed his players was loyalty, and they stuck up their collective middle finger right back at him.