Claudio Ranieri puts burgers on menu to beef up Fulham survival mission

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first_imgShare on Facebook Fulham That season at Leicester was a bonus, a miracle I forgetClaudio Ranieri Inevitably there were also questions about his time at Leicester, who he guided to an impossible Premier League title as 5,000-1 shots in 2016. However, even at 67 Ranieri insisted that he only wanted to look forward. “One quality I have is to forget what happened yesterday,” he said. “I look always forward. I’m an ambitious man. I believe I have good players. Now I have to choose players who show fighting spirit, quality and unity.”It helps that Ranieri still has a house in west London from his time at Chelsea, and he seemed instantly at home at Fulham, which he called a “little big club”. But there were no grand promises to win the Premier League again – merely a hard-hatted acceptance that he wanted to get to 40 points and keep Fulham up as quickly as possible.“That season at Leicester was a bonus, a fairytale I forget,” he said. “Now it’s important not to think about the miracle. There will be a lot of battles ahead and it’s important to be ready together. The club, the players and the fans, together. They have to support us in a bad moment. And this is a bad moment, because Fulham is at the bottom. Read more There has been little to light up Craven Cottage this season, but on a shale-grey November afternoon Claudio Ranieri was a one-man sunbeam – offering optimism, old-world charm and an iron promise to do everything possible to keep Fulham from the drop. “If I come here it’s because I believe,” he said, smiling after being unveiled as the club’s new manager. “I’m mad but not stupid.”At Leicester Ranieri promised his players pizza every time they kept a clean sheet. This time, he joked, he would have to up the ante for a side that have conceded 31 goals in 12 Premier League games this season. “I have to promise something more,” he said. “Pizza is not enough now. Better everybody to McDonald’s! I hope to pay for a McDonald’s big burger very soon!” 1:08 Reuse this content “But I am very happy to come back, the country of football. To me it is the best league of the world. It is difficult, very difficult. But I love this job.”There was no mistaking the enthusiasm – or the intent. Ranieri is back. And the Premier League is undoubtedly a more interesting place for it. There was, of course, a serious message behind the laughs. Fulham have lost six league games on the spin (seven in all competitions), are three points from a safe position, and have a defence more leaky than the Trump White House. This was the politest of warnings from Ranieri, who replaced Slavisa Jokanovic on Wednesday, that things would have to change – and fast.“Fulham concede a lot of goals,” he said. “I’m an Italian manager. For us Italians it’s important to maintain the clean sheet. This team has enough quality to be safe. But I need fighting spirit too. Play football, play well. But when you lose the ball I want to see you with an anchor, like pirates. I have fought for everything. I am a fighter. I want my players to be fighters – that is it. It is simple.” Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Slavisa Jokanovic deserved more time to transform Fulham’s fortunes “But when the manager changes, life is new, everybody wants to show their best. For me it’s important they understand me, just one man, my philosophy.”Yet Ranieri, who resembles a likeable buzz of caffeine and charm, is confident he can turn things around – once he gets to work on the training pitch. “I’m only thinking about when the players come back from the international break,” he insisted. “I just have two days to prepare for the match [against Southampton]. My nightmare is this. To think about how I can help my players. That’s it. The Fiver: sign up for our free daily football email.center_img Share on WhatsApp Fulham appoint Claudio Ranieri as manager after sacking Slavisa Jokanovic Topics Read more features Eni Aluko Claudio Ranieri’s journey to Fulham and back to the Premier League – video profile Share via Email Play Video Share on Pinterest Claudio Ranieri Share on Messenger And Ranieri made it clear that improving Fulham’s defensive shield will start with his star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who never appeared entirely happy being asked to harry and hustle by Rafa Benítez at Newcastle. “For me Mitrovic is a fantastic player,” explained Ranieri. “We have to give him some good balls so he can score. I watched him in the national team and score a lot of goals. He is very important. And I think from him we have very good things. But I have to choose the best way not only for him but for everybody, for the first XI.”Inevitably such an approach, he warned spectators, meant his side might have to shun some of the free-flowing style under Jokanovic in favour of winning ugly. “I hope we can play well, but if we play well and lose it’s a big problem,” Ranieri admitted. “Fulham played so well against Manchester City and Liverpool and lost. I hope to play badly and win.”Yet as he pointed out, he has got teams out of worse scrapes in his 32-year managerial career – particularly when he took over at Parma in February 2007. “When I arrived, I called my friends and they said: ‘You are mad to go there – it’s not possible to save this team.’ And I saved the team.”That Parma team won 17 points in the final 10 Serie A games to survive the drop, and earn Ranieri the manager’s job at Juventus. And his friends are firm believers that he can work his particular brand of magic again. “Everybody has said good choice, good club, historical club, magical club,” he added. “They all said: ‘Come on Claudio, you can do it’.”last_img

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