Guus Hiddink and Claudio Ranieri have enjoyed differing fortunes for their respective clubs this season.
The former has somewhat stemmed the tide at Chelsea after succeeding Jose Mourinho in December, prising the best out of his underperforming players and steering them through a 14-game unbeaten run from the moment he took over.
Ranieri, on the other hand, has been a revelation at Leicester City. Brought in to replace Nigel Pearson as manager last summer, the Italian’s arrival was met by much doubt and discontent from fans and the media.
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How he’s proved them all wrong. Some ten months on from arriving at the King Power Stadium, Ranieri has masterminded the biggest shock in Premier League history, his players’ title win confirmed on Monday night following Tottenham’s draw away to Chelsea.
Yet it all could have been so different.
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As Hiddink’s second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge approaches its close, the Dutchman has revealed to native outlet Telegraaf that he was approached by Leicester prior to Ranieri’s hiring.
He said, simply: “It is true that Leicester asked me [to be their coach] for this season.
“But I had decided it was time for rest, and I wanted to do just nothing.”
What a mistake that arguably proved to be. Whilst Ranieri has undoubtedly done a wonderful job in the East Midlands, it’s worth wondering whether it might have been Hiddink celebrating Premier League success right now had he accepted the offer from Leicester’s board.
One way or another, Hiddink has similarly performed well as Chelsea manager. Prior to his arrival, the Blues were 15th and struggling for any kind of form.
They now sit ninth - a marked improvement considering just how awful they were from August to December. Their improved performances haven’t a scratch on Leicester’s incredible rise, though, the Foxes 29 points ahead of their London counterparts.
Ranieri’s men have been remarkable from the outset and dispelled popular belief that the Premier League is always contested for by the same three or four teams.
Leicester’s unprecedented ascent has coincided with the emergence of several players largely unknown prior to the start of the season.
Jamie Vardy’s explosive pace and finishing have come to the fore; Riyad Mahrez is now one of Europe’s hottest prospects; N’Golo Kante’s combative performances have seen him linked with Arsenal and Manchester United; Danny Drinkwater has proved there’s always hope of a brighter future after being released by the Red Devils in 2012; whilst Robert Huth and Wes Morgan have shown that old school, no nonsense defending still holds a place in title winning sides.
And they have their Italian manager to thank. Ranieri’s calm and composed approach both on the sidelines and with the media has played a vital role in keeping the Foxes grounded and focused on their unlikely target.
Long may it continue.
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