IF YOU thought Claudio Ranieri was down, think again.
After his shockingly short-lived tenure at Fulham in 2018 – with three wins in just 17 games – many believed this was the end of Tinkerman’s career in English football.
But he’s back at Watford with a bang, and if his first press conference was anything, he’ll be ready for the fight again – with endless entertainment on the side.
Before he turns 70
He said: “I love football, I love life, and then maybe 80 years old, why not? The oldest manager in England, maybe with a walking stick. But the brain is important and the brain is very young.” . “
And as he repeated on numerous occasions: “Happy woman, happy life!”
After promising his title-winning boys’ pizza from Leicester for every goal conceded in 2015-16, this time he would like to increase the stakes with full meals for every Hornet shut-out.
And after admitting his sacking from Chelsea is still on his mind after taking over Roman Abramovich in 2003, he claims to fearlessly accept a job with more sacks than Santa Claus.
There were even hints of getting Elton John out onto the Vicarage Road pitch to celebrate the survival of the top flight in an ironic reference to Andrea Bocelli’s King Power performance.
Whatever he’s done since leaving Craven Cottage with his head down, that Dilly-ding Dilly-Dong ghost is back and ready to be unleashed in his first game against Liverpool this weekend.
But don’t be fooled if you think Ranieri’s gift of rambling has no courage in the least.
Inside there is an iron determination to prove the opposite to those who doubt it and to uphold the belief of the Pozzo owners.
He said: “I love English football, but I loved it before I came to England in 2000. My style was very similar, very tough, very strong and that’s what I want from my players.”
“I want to see the spirit of England.
“It’s like a boxer – in some moments you can strike and in some moments you have to stay covered.
“But I keep my spirit. Nobody can kill me. I keep my spirit, my love, my life because sport is fantastic.”
He continued: “When Gino Pozzo called me after the Leeds defeat and asked me, Claudio, would you like to come to Watford, return to the Premier League, I said, ‘Why not?’ I’m very bored if I don’t stay in football. “
“Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down. But I never give up, I keep going my way. I have a strong character. I am still young.
“We have to play it safe. 40 points. And then slowly, slowly upwards. The owner is very ambitious, I’m more ambitious. I want to achieve something with Watford.”
And then it was back to the laugh-a-minute soundbites.
Ranieri is in disbelief that his largely derided way of tinkering with his starting XI is now common practice among the game’s elite.
He laughed, “Unbelievable. I made the flag. I got the flag and they’re all behind it.”
The Italian is also amazed at the popularity of his catchphrase Dilly-Ding Dilly-Dong, which was born on his journey to the title with the foxes.
He explained, “I never said that again after Leicester. I always told my daughter when she was little to wake her up.”
When asked about the pressure of taking over a club after the recent Saudi revolution in Newcastle, Ranieri smiled: “I was fired!
“I finished second behind the unbeaten Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals and was fired. That’s life. And you tell me that Watford often changes manager?”