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Chelsea will show Ranieri respect

Uefa Champions League, First knock-out round, first leg
Venue: Stamford Bridge Date: Wednesday, 25 February Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC London 94.9 and BBC London online; Score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Guus Hiddink and Claudio Ranieri
Hiddink and Ranieri crossed paths during their time in Spain

Chelsea will show ex-coach Claudio Ranieri a warm welcome when he returns with Juventus for Wednesday's Champions League last 16 first-leg match.

Current coach Guus Hiddink and midfield star Frank Lampard, signed by Ranieri in 2001, paid tribute to the Italian.

"He's a gentleman coach," said Hiddink. "He's very intelligent."

Lampard said: "Without Claudio Ranieri, I wouldn't be here now. I've the greatest respect for him as a great man as well as a great manager."

Ranieri spent four years at Stamford Bridge, guiding Chelsea to their first Champions League semi-final in May 2004 before he was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich weeks later.

He signed Lampard for 11m from West Ham while bringing William Gallas, Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge, Juan Sebastian Veron, Arjen Robben and Hernan Crespo to west London, as well as promoting John Terry to club captain.

Lampard acknowledges Ranieri legacy

"He helped me develop from a West Ham player who maybe hadn't seen the real world in footballing terms, and he opened my eyes to things," said the midfielder.

"He took Chelsea from a side that finished in the top six to one that finished in the top four.

"He should take credit for what he did in his time here. I'm looking forward to seeing him again very much.

"I don't think he's going to be thinking about proving points. He'll be thinking about getting through to the next round of the Champions League, like us."

Since leaving Chelsea, Ranieri coached Spanish club Valencia before returning to Italy, first with Parma before taking over at Juventus in June 2007.

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He crossed paths with Hiddink during his first spell in Spain with Valencia during the 1998 La Liga season, when the Dutchman was manager of Real Madrid.

And Hiddink has nothing but respect for Ranieri's methods.

"Modest is maybe not the word, but he knows how to cope with the press and the pressure in this particular job. I respect him very much," he said.

"He has several abilities. When he was working here, he made a team that was very competitive for the Premier League.

"Secondly, recently, he's very good at organising his team. His teams show themselves to have enormous tactical discipline. It's very difficult to play those teams that he is managing."

Looking back to his departure in 2004, Ranieri said: "I think even if we had won the Champions League I knew my days were numbered.

"New owners whether they are American, Arab or Russian are all convinced that if they spend they will win. But it's not true.

"A football team is built brick by brick, one area of the team at a time, developing the locker room. It's not just money that makes you win."

But the Italian said he still had great affection for the Stamford Bridge club and was delighted to return in the Champions League.

Ranieri is a 'gentleman coach' says Hiddink

"When the draw took place I got a good feeling," he said. "You don't forget four years, they were four beautiful years.

"But now I am focused on the game and that's what it's all about."

And responding to Lampard's glowing praise, Ranieri said: "All coaches aim to see young players and spot their potential and risk playing them and they are proud when they are successful.

"They are important at the beginning but after that the players do the job themselves."

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see also
Chelsea v Juventus
24 Feb 09 |  Europe
Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea
21 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Hiddink wants more from strikers
21 Feb 09 |  Premier League


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