“We cannot go on like this,” Coach Claudio Ranieri cried after Juventus drew, yet again, on Sunday squandering their chance to close the gap on Milan to just one point in the fight for second place. No we certainly can’t Ranieri, and with that, the Juve board called Ciro Ferrara on Sunday night to ask if he would be available to take over as caretaker Coach until the end of the season.
The club issued a statement on Monday afternoon confirming that they had officially sacked Coach Ranieri much to the delight of Tuttosport, the Turin based newspaper that fired the headline on Monday morning reading: “Stop Ranieri – Save Juve.” The statement read: “Ciro Ferrara is the new Juventus Coach. Juventus would like to communicate that they have sacked Claudio Ranieri.” It then continued. “Juventus would like to thank Ranieri for the work he has done over the last two years.”
Whilst most Juve fans around the world were congratulating each other on the news that their likable yet über hated Coach had now been released, every man worth his salt has put his two pennies worth regarding the dismissal. “I wasn’t expecting it as I thought they would continue with him until the end of the season. This is not Juventus’ style.” Commented ex-Juve player Angelo Di Livio. “Releasing Ranieri is a blow to the image of Juve.” Bellowed Arrigo Sacchi. Whilst Juventus heir Lapo Elkann called Ranieri a gentleman after hearing news of his departure and placed a lot of the blame of current woes on the players’ shoulders.
So who is culpable? It takes two to tango as the old saying goes. The game against Atalanta was a poor performance from the Bianconeri and they did well not to lose and the visitors were unlucky in finding the winning goal. Admittedly for the Old Lady, she was forced to play the game behind closed doors as a delayed reaction to the Mario Balotelli racist chants. Juve’s appeal was rejected and the punishment finally pushed through.
Going into the game, the players should have been fired up considering Milan was defeated the night before and this was the moment to have crept up on them in the league. The visitors on the other hand had nothing to prove as they were not fighting for a place in Europe nor their survival from relegation. Clearly Juve was the team who needed the win but you would be forgiven in thinking otherwise as they started the match dreadfully. Just 90 seconds in, Atalanta were one up as the Napoli target, Luca Cigarini’s shot took a deflection off Nicola Legrottaglie to find the back of the net. Gigi Buffon made an outstanding save 14 minutes in to deny Atalanta the chance to double the lead and reminded most why he is still considered the best.
Juve finally managed their first shot on target around ten minutes later when they had a corner. Legrottaglie nearly headed the equaliser in but the crossbar saved the visitors and preserved their lead. Vincenzo Iaquinta then eventually found the equaliser thanks to the help of a Pavel Nedved pass. Amauri tried for another goal but only managed to find the crossbar again, the infamous crossbar that proved to be the only obstacle in keeping the game from being a goal scoring thriller. Finally however, Cristiano Zanetti fired an absolute screamer from 25 yards that deflected off the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the back of the net. Juventus finally found themselves in the lead. Unfortunately, the joy was short lived as just before the half time whistle, Maximiliano Pellegrino, who had just come on as a substitute, was gifted the equaliser due to a defensive slip-up.
After half-time, Juve was still as sluggish as ever and Atalanta were denied the chance to take the lead numerous times by none other than the crossbar, leaving them to rue their unbelievable bad luck. Alessandro Del Piero finally came on for Amauri and nearly managed to score the winner but a great save from the outstanding Azzurrini goalkeeper, Andrea Consigli, left the legend disappointed. The game ended in another draw for the Old Lady, leaving Fiorentina only one point behind in the race for third place. Needless to say, Juve’s less than outstanding display proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Ranieri and the team desperately needed a shake-up.
According to Jean-Claude Blanc, the dismissal may not have been Juve’s style but they urgently needed a quick fix to jolt the players back into reality as they now feared finishing the year in fourth place. Should they lose their third place spot in the league to Florence, Juve would have to start training again in a month or so for the Champions League preliminary round in which they would miss key players due to the Confederations Cup and face the possibility of facing a powerhouse like Arsenal. General Manager Blanc also went on to say that the board decided to sack Ranieri based on the team’s display this entire season, implying that this was not a rash decision due to the recent collapse in form.
Looking back on the year, the Old Lady had a pretty good campaign up until two months ago. Who could forget the thrilling game against Milan at home when Juve managed to get four past Milan’s ageing defence or the 4-1 beating of the mighty Genoa? And of course the game that turned out to be their last moment of glory under the Tinkerman, the 1-4 thrashing of Roma in their backyard. In the Champions League, they were exhilarating against Real Madrid but unlucky against a tough Chelsea revitalised by the appointment of their replacement Coach, Guus Hiddink. Unlike a boring Inter, Juve played with their heart and soul in the second leg at home and thoroughly deserved a spot in the quarter-finals. Every European newspaper cried that the better team were sent home.
Interestingly enough, Luciano Moggi, actually defended the fired Coach. “I don’t think that Juventus did wrong in choosing Ranieri,” he explained. “The Coach was having a very good season considering the squad he had.” An attack at the management but perhaps Moggi was right. With the insurmountable number of injuries to the Juve squad, there was very little chance of them winning the coveted Scudetto. Furthermore, poor judgements in the last transfer campaign meant that while Milan had Ronaldinho, Kaka and Alexandre Pato to choose from, the Tinkerman had Christian Poulsen. It has been mentioned a thousand times before but Juve’s defence and midfield are in dire need of real talent, worthy of the Bianconeri stripes. A Coach cannot build the team alone and needs the help of directors to secure quality signings.
However, when Jose Mourinho spoke about how Juve rejoiced when they scored the equaliser against Inter to maintain rather than widen the gap between the two in the race for the Scudetto, every Juve fan was ashamed. Ashamed that this media hungry, Champions League losing, arrogant man was ridiculing their beloved team and, worst of all, he was right. Juve celebrated a goal that only secured them one point. Usually this type of merriment is reserved for Pippo Inzaghi when he scores just any goal but it was this match that lost Ranieri the supporters he may have otherwise retained. If Juve drew against the distinguished Milan then it would be forgivable, but no one can forgive a celebrated draw against Inter in Turin.
In the end, it had to be done and Ranieri needed to be released. He must be thanked for what he did for the Old Lady but it has to be said, nice guys finish last. Control has now been handed over to the Juventus legend, Ciro Ferrara, who, with a little luck, might carry an inspirational attitude adopted from Marcello Lippi during their time together, to help the Bianconeri secure Champions League qualification. Ciro, who is in charge of Juve’s youth team, is currently the most suitable candidate in the mission to win points from their last two games and Del Piero has already hailed his arrival.
With Gian Piero Gasperini having signed a contract extension as Coach of Genoa, the list of possible replacements for the role as Coach of Juve is dwindling. Roma seem to be certain that they will continue to retain Luciano Spalletti and frankly, judging by their campaign this season, he may not be a wise choice. The dressing room is in tatters, the club is fighting for a place in Europe and the players are going over the Coach’s head to reach agreements with management. Whilst Spalletti may play great football, Juve is more concerned with good results than an attacking style of play. For now, Ferrara has been tasked with pulling Juve out of their funk with his first game away to Siena, as for the future – it’s merely speculation.