By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
Javier Zanetti made a burst into the heart of the Siena defence before feeding Diego Milito. The striker took a couple of touches before firing right-footed into the far corner of the net. Finally Inter had the goal their dominance merited, and – more importantly – they had sealed their fifth successive league title. It was a stake to the heart of Claudio Ranieri and Roma. Their 2-0 advantage over Chievo in Verona now meant nothing. The ‘Tinkerman’ was to finish the bridesmaid once more.
Now, in a situation so similar to that of two seasons ago, it is the Nerazzurri that Ranieri has been tasked with picking back up onto their feet. His ability to firefight, to drag clubs back up to the brink of success, is seemingly perfect for the job needing done at Pinetina right at this moment. The sacking of Gian Piero Gasperini – however merited – leaves the 2010 Champions League winners in utter disarray. Just as Roma were when he took over from Luciano Spalletti.
He’d also fulfilled a similar role with Juventus. Stepping into Didier Deschamps' shoes when La Vecchia Signora returned to the top flight in 2007, Ranieri saw them to a creditable third on their top flight return, before leading them on a run into the top two spots late in 2008-09 - until seven successive draws led to his hasty dismissal.
|COACHING SNAPSHOT | Claudio Ranieri
And even before then there had been rescue missions fulfilled at Chelsea, taking over from Gianluca Vialli in their time of need and leading them to their best league finish in 49 years, and at Parma, where an almost certain relegation was avoided in 2006-07.
But it is the role at hometown club Roma which will have resonated most with Massimo Moratti and prompted him to turn to Ranieri after Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Novara saw the Gasperini experiment ended. Having taken on a squad in need of a fresh approach, the former Atletico Madrid boss spent a number of weeks stabilising his troops. With the capital side still in the bottom half come November, his big-time mentality was being questioned once more, with many pointing to a trophy cabinet that contained only a Coppa Italia with Fiorentina and a Copa del Rey with Valencia as prizes of any real note.
However, the Giallorossi were to embark on a fantastic 24-game unbeaten run which saw them lead Serie A with only four games remaining. He’d made big decisions to get them there too, not least in the derby clash with Lazio. Trailing 1-0 at the break, Ranieri opted to substitute the underperforming Francesco Totti and his vice-captain Daniele De Rossi.
|RANIERI'S RECENT RETURN
|*Took over after season's start
**Sacked before season's end
But in the very next game, it was a Giampaolo Pazzini double for Sampdoria, including an 86th-minute winner, which stunned the Stadio Olimpico and allowed Inter to regain control of the title race. Jose Mourinho’s Nerazzurri were faultless in the final three games, and it was to be another bridesmaid story for Ranieri.
Today, four weeks before he turns 60, the ex-Catanzaro defender gets another shot at one of Italy’s greatest clubs. He has yet to be entrusted with the honour of leading any of the big guns when they are flying high, but then that just wouldn’t be his way. This task is almost tailor-made for him.
Similar to the way that Leonardo couldn’t really fail to take the Nerazzurri forward after Rafael Benitez’s troubled six months at San Siro last year, so the pressure is off Ranieri following Gasperini’s five-game flop. But at no point is there a complete lack of expectation at a club like Inter, and it is that which he thrives upon most.
They may well be in the relegation zone right now – with the unwanted distinction of having fallen behind Atalanta only three games after their six-point deduction – but Inter will have been heartened by Wednesday evening’s results, which proved that Juventus, Napoli and neighbours Milan all still have some work to do too.
There is a big job on to keep pace with those three though, with a first team squad in serious need of a kick up the backside and a huge reorganisation. But who better is there to go about the task than Ranieri?
Happy 60th birthday Claudio … Here, it’s a poisoned chalice, just the way you like it.Follow Kris Voakes on