9 managers who made the critics look silly

Claudio Ranieri, Mauricio Pochettino

Not every successful manager was tipped for glory from the start. FFT's Chris Flanagan looks at those who proved the doubters wrong 

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1. Claudio Ranieri, Leicester

"Claudio Ranieri? Really?" That was Gary Lineker's reaction to Leicester City appointing the Italian as their new boss in summer 2015 – and he was far from alone. Few managers have turned around public opinion quite so swiftly and dramatically.

"It's a strange appointment," said another former Foxes striker, Tony Cottee. "They took a massive risk getting rid of Nigel Pearson."

"Can't believe Leicester appointed Ranieri," tweeted Didi Hamann. "I'm afraid it's MK rather than Old Trafford the season after next."

In the history of predictions, that may be up there as one of the worst: given that MK Dons were in League One in 2016/17, even if Hamann had been right about Leicester's relegation, he would still have been wrong.

A manager is only as good as his last job, they say, and that was the biggest reason for the opposition to Ranieri's appointment. A few months earlier he'd been in charge of Greece when they embarrassingly lost at home to the Faroe Islands. "After what happened with Greece, I'm surprised he can walk back into the Premier League," said Harry Redknapp.

The punters were no less impressed. "Imagine bringing in Claudio Ranieri to manage your team when Sam Allardyce is without a club," said one. "How does Ranieri keep getting jobs? The Italian Dave Bassett," pondered another.

Claudio Ranieri

Claudio has done all he can to avoid going to a city of roundabouts

Bassett might welcome that comparison right now. Are you a Serie A club looking to upset the big boys? Then who better to appoint than 'the English Claudio Ranieri'? Dave Bassett for Udinese: the campaign starts here.

2. Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton

Just think, if Nigel Adkins had been in charge of Tottenham, they would have had the Premier League title sewn up by now.

When Southampton surprisingly sacked Adkins and appointed Pochettino as manager in 2013, there were plenty who questioned whether the Argentine would be able to match his predecessor's achievements at St Mary's.

With due respect to Pochettino, what does he know about our game? What does he know about the Premier League? Does he speak English?

- Lawrie McMenemy

Pochettino was pretty much known only as the guy who tripped Michael Owen at the 2002 World Cup – and he had long hair back then... was this definitely the same bloke?

In contrast, Adkins had guided Southampton from League One to the Premier League in two years, and his side had drawn at Chelsea just two days before his shock dismissal. Saints were a respectable 15th in the table, in mid-January.

"I am shocked," said former Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemy. "To finish fourth-bottom in the first season in the Premier League is success. With due respect to Pochettino, what does he know about our game? What does he know about the Premier League? What does he know about the dressing room? Does he speak English?"

So many questions, Lawrie. But no, Pochettino didn't speak the language, and not until he joined Spurs a year later did he conduct his first full press conference without the use of a translator. He was, however, a resounding success at Southampton and has since continued in the same vein at White Hart Lane.

Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton

"Look at those foreigners, coming here and defying expectations"

Saints went against all the traditional advice: they attempted to fix things that weren't obviously broken, they didn't give Adkins time, and they risked it all by going for some trendy foreign bloke ahead of an experienced domestic boss. But in the long term, it turned out that they got it right. Spectacularly right.

3. Jurgen Klinsmann, Germany

Die Mannschaft were arguably at their lowest ebb when Klinsmann was surprisingly installed as the national team's new coach in 2004, following Germany's group stage exit at the European Championship. For a start, nobody worth their salt wanted the job. 

Klinsmann, then, had no managerial experience whatsoever and his plans quickly ruffled feathers. Michael Ballack admitted to scepticism over the team's new training methods, and the manager's plans for an open battle for the goalkeeping shirt didn't go smoothly. Long-serving No.1 Oliver Kahn and challenger Jens Lehmann didn't see eye to eye, and things got trickier when goalkeeping coach and national legend Sepp Maier publicly voiced his opinion that Kahn was the better goalkeeper.

The result? Maier was swiftly ousted. Lothar Matthaus responded in the press by labelling Klinsmann "cold-blooded" and "a killer". A bit harsh.

Jurgen Klinsmann, 2006

Not bad for the gig nobody fancied taking

Germany's 4-1 friendly loss to Italy months before the 2006 World Cup sent a wave of pessimism through the country, with many fearing embarrassment as World Cup hosts. As it turned out, they needn't have worried. A revitalised national team reached the semi-finals thanks to some of the most exciting, attacking football that the country had witnessed for quite some time.

Klinsmann opted to step aside after the tournament, replaced as boss by his assistant Joachim Low. But he had set Germany on the path to redemption, one that would lead them to World Cup glory in 2014.