Claudio Ranieri during the Serie A play-off between Cagliari and Venezia in Cagliari, Italy, May 2023.

Claudio Ranieri’s promotion-greeting blubbing is the best thing you’ll see all week

In 1988, a young Claudio Ranieri arrived at Cagliari in Serie C and took them to two successive promotions to Serie A.

In December, a 71-year-old Ranieri came in with the task to bring Cagliari back to Serie A. They were sitting 12th when Ranieri arrived, with their chances of promotion looking slimmer than a supermodel’s waistline.

“Welcome back Mister, how nice to hug you again!” read the charming club statement, but nobody foresaw what would transpire over the next six months.

Ranieri has worked his magic in Sardinia. Implementing his tight defensive structure with room for flair to shine, the side began to seriously motor back into the promotion picture.

Under him, Cagliari secured 1.84 points per game to comfortably make the play-offs. Victories over Venezia and Parma took Ranieri’s side into the promotion against Bari.

Despite the first leg seeing Cagliari lead until a last-gasp penalty from Mirco Antenucci, Serie B rules meant that a repeat result would see Bari promoted as they’d finished higher in the regular league season.

So two sides with storied histories and loyal supporters faced off for the final spot in Serie A. In a spot of hubris that would’ve made Ally McLeod think twice, the Bari team bus made a pre-match lap of the stadium to soak up the adulation of the crowd.

You don’t need to be a scholar of dramatic irony to guess what happened next; a tense, taught match looked set for extra-time until the 94th minute when substitute Leonardo Pavoletti volleyed in at the back post from Gabriele Zappa’s cross.

Cue bedlam as the travelling Sardinians had the mother and father of celebrations high in the stands of the Stadio San Nicola.

Ranieri’s own reaction was different. As serotonin and adrenaline flooded his body, the Cagliari boss simply broke down in tears as he hugged a member of his coaching staff in pure happiness.

No, you’re crying.

Ranieri had 18 different managerial tenures between his first and second periods as Cagliari boss, including his Premier League-winning spell at Leicester City.

“I have sadness for these marvellous fans. Football brings dreams and also nightmares,” he told Sky Sport Italia after Leicester’s relegation last month.

“I will always remember a game against Sunderland, which is practically in Scotland. I saw two or three buses full of old people who had travelled to attend the match and I thought, what time did they get up to make this journey?

“There is also a big Asian community in Leicester and many of them told me they were grateful that football helped to unite the city more. That goes beyond the Premier League that we won.”

But it’s his timeless success in Italy that has seen him recognised as one of the nation’s greatest coaches in football history. Ranieri will be back in Serie A next season, and seems to be engaged in a ‘manage til you drop’ contest with Roy Hodgson.

And his reaction to their promotion will have put a smile on everybody’s faces this morning. Bravo, Claudio!

By Michael Lee

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