Claudio Ranieri Has Been Playing a Game All Season Long - And He's Masterminded it to Perfection

11/05/2016 16:47 | Updated 11 May 2016

​Claudio Ranieri is a genius.

How does a football manager repair a career seemingly falling into tatters? The Italian's predicament prior to life at the King Power Stadium was anything but the rosy state he currently finds himself in.

Just two major trophies - one at Fiorentina, the other at Valencia - were all he had to show for in a career spanning 16 clubs in almost two decades, and the latest hiccup looked to have come when he was sacked by the Greece National Team after just four matches.

It's no surprise why he was dismissed in Greece. He didn't even live in the country and he often changed the team and formation around, which confused the players. His appointment at Leicester City, then, looked like his last shot at redemption.

With the media lambasting the decision to hire him as 'baffling' and 'strange', Ranieri knew there was much he needed to change about his own approach, let alone his new team's, if he was to defy the odds and rescue a club that were favourites to go down.

Step one - get the media onside, something his predecessor Nigel Pearson miserably failed at. Before every single press conference at Leicester, Ranieri shook the hands of each journalist that attended.

Once you don't have the wrath of the media breathing down your neck, life at the club becomes a little easier, allowing the players to focus on the task at hand.

Step two - leave the tactics be. Ranieri has gained the nickname 'Tinkerman' during his career but where has it got him?

When he arrived at the club he not only kept his backroom untouched, leaving assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh to carry on their work, but allowed the team to maintain their successful 4-4-2 that helped them stave off relegation the season before.

Step three - create a family atmosphere. With the club's reputation coming under fire in pre-season, when three youth team players infamously filmed themselves abusing women on a tour of Thailand, Ranieri moved to unite his players.

He told reporters that if his team kept a clean sheet against Crystal Palace, he would reward them with free pizza, after watching the team fail to shut out the opposition in any of their first nine games. "I told them, the clean sheet, I buy everybody a pizza. I think they wait until I improve my offer, okay a pizza and a hot dog."

Not only did it pay off, as the Foxes secured a 1-0 victory over Alan Pardew's men, inspiring the team to improve on their defending, but also served as a great team-building moment - allowing the chemistry of the team to grow.

Step four - play it coy. Once he finally had this successful formula taking shape, and the Foxes started to climb the league as a result, media attention was understandably at a high, but all he had to say was 'our goal is 40 points', despite topping the table at Christmas.

Did he think Leicester could possibly win the league? Of course he did. But if he had bullishly admitted they could do it, they might not have. Even in late March, when they were heading into the business end of the season, he stressed they only had a top six finish in their sights.

"Now we are fighting to achieve the Europa League. Can you imagine Leicester achieve the Europa League and next season we stay in the Europa League? Unbelievable."

Because what better way to keep your side focused on winning the title when you make out like your merely battling for sixth place?

Even after Leicester had lifted their historic crown, Ranieri moved to immediately set a target for a 10th placed finish next year. He also claimed that the rich clubs would return to form next season and that their triumph was a one off. No doubt to create an even more relaxed environment to give his team a chance at retaining their title.

Ranieri said he has gone from being the 'tinkerman' to the 'thinkerman', and it sums up his season perfectly. His whole career has been based on adjusting his teams, but this time he kept the team the same and adjusted himself.

It's beautiful in it's simplicity, but brilliant in its execution.

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