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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
'Dead man' Ranieri walks tall
By John May

Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri looks resigned to his fate
A famous Italian predecessor of Claudio Ranieri who also came to England could not have put it better.

"Veni, vidi, vici," said Julius Caesar, and while Ranieri came and saw the Premiership, he had to be content with having conquered the hearts, minds and affections of all those who brushed up against him - just as he did while at Valencia, where he has now returned.

Not least of all, he captured the affections of flint-hearted media men, the key formers and shapers of football opinion.

Always engaging, Ranieri also showed a dignity rare in football, and all the more refreshing for being so.

An integral element in his charm offensive was his attempted use of English.

In that condescending way we often have with foreigners who tackle our language, we took Ranieri to our hearts.

Hello my sharks, welcome to the funeral
Claudio Ranieri

He became the Mrs Malaprop of football, not so much mangling the English language as gently manipulating it in his own inimitable style.

When he first arrived, an interpreter was a must-have for his post-match conferences.

But it was a mark of the man's professionalism and desire to do a good job that he soon learned English.

As his knowledge increased, it revealed a wicked and delicious sense of humour, allied to a Monty Python-esque sense of the absurd in the awareness of his situation under Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

"Hello my sharks, welcome to the funeral," was his greeting to the press before Chelsea's Champions League semi-final, second leg against Monaco.

My players showed good stamina and good vitamins
Claudio Ranieri

On another occasion he said: "Before you kill me, you call me the 'dead man walking'. I must buy you an espresso. But only a little one - I am Scottish!"

Even as the vultures sat on the tree, licking their lips, Ranieri said: "People have said I am a dead man walking but I am not - I am still moving. It is difficult to kill me."

Coming to England certainly broadened the horizons of a cultural man like Ranieri.

"I've never been to Scarborough and I might even like the place," he said, risking a wrathful ducking stool in the North Sea before an FA Cup tie against the non-league minnows.

Managing a Premiership club can obviously take its toll on the grey matter, and after knocking Arsenal out of the Champions League, Ranieri confessed: "Tonight I am a crazy man and Roman Abramovich is also going mad like me!"

Claudio Ranieri leaves the pitch with security guards
"Keep an eye out for those knives in the back"

But we loved him for his little foibles in the way he used his English and had us scratching our heads.

After that Champions league victory over Arsenal he said his players "showed good stamina and good vitamins".

In the end, you could not blame Ranieri if he took another quote from his old mate Julius.

As the knife plunged into him, and Jose Mourinho stood ready to don the laurel crown, Ranieri had every reason to look over his shoulder and ask Roman Abramovich: "Et tu, Brute?"


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Sport's Sue Thearle
"There's no doubt other suitors will come calling for Ranieri"





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