Claudio Ranieri, coach of newly crowned Premier League champions Leicester City, has torn up the managerial media playbook this season – with glorious results.
Top football managers in the past have taken a more combative approach with Britain’s media. Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough was detached and arrogant with journalists. Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson even refused to talk to the BBC for years, after a slight against his football agent son during a documentary. And Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho prickled when quizzed on TV and used his interviews to create a siege mentality within his club.
Ranieri, on the other hand, has consistently declined to criticise referees when decisions went against him. He has been charming with journalists and quick to lighten up press conferences with jokes.
When a TV journalist once tried to create ‘an edge’ with an opposing manager, Watford’s Quique Sanchez Flores (who had replaced Ranieri at Valencia), Ranieri responded by screwing up his face, snarling: "Yes, big revenge… I want to kill him!" before collapsing in giggles, along with the press pack.
This month, as Leicester seized the title, Ranieri said he would ‘bonus’ his never-say-die squad by buying them a pizza. And when asked to sum up winning the title against 5,000-1 odds, the genial Italian responded: "Amazing. Dream. Reality." Genius.