Ranieri: Where did it all go wrong?
Claudio Ranieri has been a dead man walking for some time now, but you would have thought Juventus might have allowed him to walk away a proud man.
The club likes to convey that aristocratic image even though they have long been exposed as scoundrels. In the current hierarchy, they give off the air of technocrats rather than having any passion for the game in mould of the late Gianni Agnelli.
Having publicly backed their man to the end of the season, the suits then did a complete U-turn.
He may have been doomed at the end of the campaign anyway, but now Ranieri has been pushed out of the door marked Ã¢ÂÂfailureÃ¢ÂÂ - the first Juve coach to have been booted out before the end of the campaign since 1969.
So where did it all go wrong for the dear old mister?
Ranieri, before the roof fell in
The dressing room
It has been obvious for some time that a number of the old guard weren't playing for their coach anymore.
The Ã¢ÂÂagainstÃ¢ÂÂ camp were clear in their attentions to undermine Ranieri: the public demonstrations of contempt from David Trezeguet when substituted was followed by reported bust-ups with Mauro Camoranesi behind closed doors.
The Ã¢ÂÂforÃ¢ÂÂ camp were few and far between and, apart from Gigi Buffon, consisted of players who in other years would not be wearing the black and white shirt.
The Ã¢ÂÂneutralsÃ¢ÂÂ - if such a thing exists - could never really be trusted and one wonders if Alessandro del Piero and Pavel Nedved really were sitting on the fence, as they often claimed.
Too many scrappy wins turned into seven league games without a victory.
Probably the biggest blunder was starting Del Piero, Camoranesi and Nedved on the bench in the second leg of the Italian Cup semi-final against Lazio when the team was 2-1 down from the away leg.
Too often when performances were flat, the livewire Sebastian Giovinco was given too little time from the bench to influence the outcome.
At times Ranieri could have lived up to his Ã¢ÂÂTinkermanÃ¢ÂÂ moniker and changed the formation to give little Giovinco more freedom Ã¢ÂÂ rather than isolate him out on the left flank when Nedved had finally run out of energy.
"About time, too"
Ranieri did insist on signing Christian Poulsen when Xabi Alsono had been making all the right noises about moving to Turin.
Olof Mellberg was another dud Ã¢ÂÂ but then the directors did little to offload Tiago, who has hung around like a bad smell all season.
When they arrived, they arrived thick and fast. A few weeks ago the spine of the team was missing, with Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio and Amauri all out.
The midfield has been shorn of Mohamed Sissoko for the run-in and the influential Cristiano Zanetti up until recently.
Gigi Buffon has looked a shadow of the best goalkeeper in the world since his return from a back injury at the start of the year, while knocks and strains have highlighted the squad's lack of depth.
"How very dare you"
Ciro Ferrara is in for the final two games to instil a united front and will no doubt rely on the old guard to secure third place. And after that?
Well, if it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt for the pesky World Cup, then Marcello Lippi would have been welcomed back with open arms.
Still, we can expect to see the Azzurri coach making more regular visits to Vinovo under the guise of checking up on Fabio Cannavaro, but no doubt offering advice on such matters as possible new arrivals.
All indications are that Antonio Conte will be prised away from newly-promoted Bari to deal with coaching matters and, after a season bedding in, will work with the old maestro once again to finally set the Old Lady back on the road to stability.
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