'Tinkerman' Ranieri set for Monaco challenge

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When Claudio Ranieri was controversially sacked by new Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in May 2004, it was the club's Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of AS Monaco that was attributed as the final nail in the popular Italian's Stamford Bridge coffin.

Eight years on, and the desirable 60-year-old has moved full circle, having been announced as the Ligue 2 club's new manager. It's an appointment that should be considered quite a coup for a side that finds themselves in the French second division, particularly with other clubs interested in his services.

Ranieri is fondly remembered in England, and had been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League, having recently held talks with West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace and the club's sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth, about replacing Roy Hodgson at The Hawthorns.

Despite twice meeting Baggies representatives, Ranieri has opted instead to take up the challenge of trying to return AS Monaco to France's top-flight, following their disappointing eighth placed finish in 2011-12, after being relegated from Ligue 1 the previous campaign.

Ranieri's arrival was confirmed in a statement on the club's website this morning, with the ex-Inter Milan boss signing a two-year contract with the option for a further 12 months.

"AS Monaco Football Club is delighted to announce the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as the club's new head coach," read the statement. "The appointment follows a rigorous search and selection process during which Claudio Ranieri clearly emerged as the outstanding candidate for the job.

"He is regarded as one of the leading coaches in modern European football and brings to AS Monaco FC a wealth of experience and achievement in the game.

"We are confident that, under Claudio Ranieri's leadership, the team will continue the strong improvement it experienced in the second half of last season.

"Above all, we believe his coaching skills will bring an extra dimension to the preparation of the team that will help drive the level of performance that is required both to entertain and to excel."

Ranieri's wealth of managerial experience has taken in 12 different clubs, with high-profile spells at Cagliari, Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia and Atletico Madrid prior to his appointment as the long-term successor to Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea in September 2000.

In his first two seasons in west London, the Blues finished sixth in the Premier League, and lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup final in 2002. Despite being hit by financial problems, the 'Tinkerman' as he was affectionately named by the Chelsea faithful made light work of the growing constraints, by guiding the club back to the Champions League the following year.

But, the arrival of Abramovich in 2003 marked the beginning of the end for Ranieri. His failure to win a trophy in 2003-04 after spending more than £100million on new players the previous summer, ultimately proved to be his undoing.

Speculation was rife that the Russian owner wanted to appoint his own man, and Chelsea were heavily linked with a move for then Porto boss Jose Mourinho, who went on to win the Champions League with the Portuguese club, before eventually replacing Ranieri at Stamford Bridge.

His sacking came as a bit of a shock, particularly after the Italian had just guided the Blues to their highest league position for 49 years - second place in the Premier League.

Chelsea went on to achieve untold success under Mourinho and so the decision proved fruitful, but Ranieri is still remembered fondly by everyone at Stamford Bridge after building the core of the team that later won two Premier League titles, including John Terry, Petr Cech, Arjen Robben, William Gallas, Claude Makelele, William Gallas and Frank Lampard.

Ranieri returned to Spain for a second spell at Valencia in June 2004, replacing Liverpool-bound Rafa Benitez at the helm. However, he lasted only nine months at the Mestalla, before he was sacked in February 2005, following the club's UEFA Cup exit at the hands of Steaua Bucharest.

After two years out of the game, Ranieri returned to his homeland with spells at Parma, Juventus and Roma before an ill-fated stint in Milan ended in dismissal in March this year, after the Nerazzurri won only one of his last ten league games in charge.

He arrived at the San Siro in September 2011, replacing Gian Piero Gasperini - who himself was dismissed after only five games in charge - but failed to change the club's fortunes, and was sacked as a result.

Having spent another three months out of the game, Ranieri will now embark on the latest chapter of his managerial career with AS Monaco, taking his first ever job in France, the 13th club he will have coached. He will be presented tomorrow alongside general director Filips Dhondt and sporting director Tor-Kristian Karlsen at the Stade Louis II.

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