From the bottom to those stars that make football so adored. Claudio Ranieri did it again as Cagliari Calcio stepped up from the lower rankings to the Serie B (the Italian football second division) to the Serie A, after an astonishing comeback from the 14th place in which they poured at the end of December to the top of the Italian football, once again, after just one year of intense emotions and controversy.
BEGINNINGS 35 years ago, in 1988, a young Claudio Ranieri arrived at Cagliari in Serie C – the third Italian football division – and took them to two successive promotions to reach Serie A. Last December, a 71-year-old Ranieri came in with the mission to bring Cagliari back to the first division. A difficult task for anyone, especially for him who left a unique record in Cagliari fans’ hearts, after his achievements from more than 20 years ago, and did not want to ruin those memories. Yet he put his passion in the first place and his mission has been accomplished.
DEDICATION AND DEVOTION A remarkable example of dedication and devotion indeed, from a coach who always made passion alongside hard work and clear tactical ideas his main hinges. A dramatic, yet passionate, football story directed by “Sir” Claudio – as appointed by English football fans after the historical Premier League title achieved in the 2015/2016 season with Leicester City Football Club – one of those tales that makes football romantic and passional.
A PASSIONATE RACE The tears shred on the pitch after the final whistle at Stadio San Nicola in Bari represents emotions that football can inspire in people: Feelings shared not only by a single town, Cagliari but also by an entire island, an entire people, those from Sardegna, who have always shared a unique bond with these colours.
Cagliari’s advancement in the first league, particularly when no one could predict this outcome, represents another precious token in his career. As a matter of fact, no one six months ago, on December 2022, could have imagined the Sardinian club to compete for advancement in the Italian first division. On December 23, 2022, the day when Claudio Ranieri came back as Cagliari’s coach, he found a team languished in the low standings of the Serie B, loss in energy, and poor ambitions and ideas.
Yet, he inspired his team with clear tactics and convincing ideals: In the following months, Cagliari was able to step up in Serie B, reaching a dramatic fifth place at the end of the regular season. Playoff accomplished by Sir Claudio, but it was not enough for him: The semifinals against Parma gave confidence to a team motivated more than ever to give their people a dream, especially after the first leg of the Playoffs final against Bari, ended up with the result of 1-1. Only a victory could lead Cagliari to Serie A, and in a foggy, yet enflamed Stadio San Nicola in Bari, a true football miracle took place.
The visitors had struggled to create chances for most of the game but summoned a final push in the pouring rain. At the end of the match, at minute 94, Leonardo Pavoletti’s stoppage-time goal from close range sealed the final score in Cagliari’s favour. The Sardinian club return to the top flight after a one-year absence, joining Frosinone and Genoa, who both won automatic promotion.
A TRUE GENTLEMAN What makes Claudio Ranieri “the last of football gentlemen” are not only his career achievements over the years, but also the style and manners he never missed a chance to show to everyone, as happened on Sunday night in Bari after the final whistle.
As it usually happens, after almost every football match, supporters from the winning team start screaming and singing against the loss squad: In this case, what happened at San Nicola after 94 passionate minutes of football were Cagliari supporters yelling against Bari fans, screaming “Serie B! Serie B!” to them. But Ranieri could not stand anymore another scene of low level from the football world, immediately stopping his own supporters from making fun of their opponents.
What came next was a total celebration from everyone: From Bari supporters by thanking Sir Claudio for the respect shown after a passionate football clash, to Cagliari players and supporters by taking Cagliari coach in triumph. A scene to take an example from for everyone.
ANOTHER MILESTONE Appointed over the years many times as a “loser“, especially from the Italian crowd, he showed once again how wrong those people were with their judgments. The promotion attained by Cagliari is only the last achievement in a career full of missed triumphs, yet unforgettable victories.
Many times he missed the chance to triumph nationally: His years in Rome were marked by many second places behind an unstoppable Inter Milan, who would have later reached their first Treble in the 2009/2010 season. Yet, he reached many times promotions to the first division, especially with Fiorentina, Parma and of course Cagliari.
Therefore, the previously mentioned Premier League title won in the 2015/2016 season with Leicester City Football Club steps up among those achievements: From the relegation in the English second division avoided the season before on the very last day to a football triumph unique to its kind, against the English football superpowers who, with their money and possibilities, have made themselves (almost) unreachable for anyone. But not for him, who once again showed that passion and hard work can overcome any prediction on the eve.
What awaits now for Ranieri is a very well-deserved Serie A campaign with a team, Cagliari Calcio, who promises to show once again a spirit capable to overcome any obstacle.
Credit: AIPS Media