Valencia sack Ranieri after eight months

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The Independent Online

The former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked as the Valencia coach yesterday just eight months into his second spell in charge of the Spanish champions. The decision was taken at a board meeting brought forward to yesterday following the club's surprising elimination from the Uefa Cup by Steaua Bucharest on Thursday night.

The former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked as the Valencia coach yesterday just eight months into his second spell in charge of the Spanish champions. The decision was taken at a board meeting brought forward to yesterday following the club's surprising elimination from the Uefa Cup by Steaua Bucharest on Thursday night.

Antonio Lopez, who worked alongside Rafael Benitez when he was at Valencia, will take over as coach. Chelsea sacked Ranieri last May, after nearly four years at Stamford Bridge, making way for the arrival of Jose Mourinho.

"We have decided to replace Claudio Ranieri as sporting director and coach of Valencia football club," the Valencia president Juan Bautista Soler told a news conference. "We understand, and he too understands, that the results of the club in the last few weeks have not been the most appropriate, and have had the effect of distancing us from the objectives we set ourselves at the start of the season."

The Italian's future was already in the balance after a miserable run in the league. They slipped to sixth place - 19 points behind leaders Barcelona - after a six-game winless run.

"We are convinced that we are leaving the club in good hands," Soler said. "He [Lopez] was a key part of our recent successes and we are confident that as someone who knows the squad better than anyone else he is the ideal person for the job."

Valencia, who won the Uefa Cup and the Spanish title last season under Benitez, let slip a 2-0 first-leg lead and lost on penalties to the former European champions Steaua.

Ranieri, 53, signed for three years when he took over from Benitez in the close season. As pressure mounted on Ranieri, Soler stood behind his coach, insisting that he would not be removed before the end of the season. "In principle the coach's job is not under threat," he said just a fortnight ago. "I have said that on 30 June we will evaluate the season as a whole and take any decisions then."

What seems to have changed his mind was Valencia's dramatic loss of form in the league. Second, seven points behind Barcelona at the end of December, Valencia have won just one match in seven since the turn of the year.

By last weekend's defeat by Racing Santander the writing was on the wall. "We signed Ranieri in an abnormal situation," Soler said. "We had just lost Benítez and we had to act quickly. There was a board meeting coming up and some other shareholders had spoken to Ranieri, so we had to do the same.

"We acted precipitously. We will decide what to do in June, but I don't know what would happen if we had two more bad results."

Ranieri's reign had begun promisingly with Valencia winning the European Supercup against Porto at the start of the season, before his side made an embarrassing first-round exit in the King's Cup at the hands of second division Lleida in October.

The notoriously fickle Valencia fans and local press quickly lost faith in the new man, "You are all like sharks," said Ranieri who continually resorted to his plentiful supply of metaphors as he sought to inspire his side out of their disappointing run of form.

"We are like warriors, we must keep on fighting and never give up," the Italian told his players. But the players, too, who had not always been happy under Benitez, were reported to have their gripes too.

Last season's leading scorer Mista was consigned to the bench after stalling on a contract renewal. Others were reported to be unhappy about the influx of Italian signings. The failure of the strikers Marco Di Vaio and Bernardo Corradi, midfielders Stefano Fiore and defender Emiliano Moretti to live up to their billing served only to increase pressure on Ranieri.

Despite his remarkable success, even Benitez had found Valencia extremely difficult to work for - which was one reason why he was happy to accept the post of Liverpool manager when it was offered last May. Benitez railed against the in-fighting that had gone on during his three-year stint at the club, and accused some of the directors of trying to stab him in the back.

Ranieri's team were eliminated from the Champions' League after a series of dismal performances in the group phase, including a 5-1 mauling by Internazionale and a 2-0 defeat at home by Werder Bremen in their final match. Thursday's defeat by Steaua effectively ended the club's last hope of winning a trophy this season.

During his previous spell at Valencia, Ranieri guided the club to victory in the King's Cup and a first qualification for the Champions' League in 1999.

He joined Atletico Madrid immediately after the Cup victory, although his tenure at the club was cut short when they went into administration and he quit his post just seven months after taking charge.

He was appointed Chelsea coach in September 2000 after the departure of Gianluca Vialli, but his future at the west London club was in doubt from the moment it was bought by Roman Abramovich in July 2003.

Heartbroken Ranieri's reign brifly noted

'You can't say no to your heart.' Ranieri after agreeing to rejoin Valencia last summer

'In situations like this you have to count to 10 before making a decision. The coach is doing the right thing - he's selecting the players that any fan would have selected.'

Club president Juan Bautista Soler after defeat by promoted Getafe in November

'I know there are sharks out there wanting to get me.' Ranieri on the press

'You know I'm really good friends with the press. We get on well.'

The day after

'When you see the referee give them more than you, you feel as though you are being shafted. Now I understand what happened to him at Roma when they hit him on the head.' On referee Anders Frisk after Frisk had handled Valencia's loss to Werder Bremen, which saw them knocked out of the Champions' League. The next day, Ranieri apologised to Frisk

'We only react when we are up to our necks in shit.' After training at the start of February

'In principle the coach's job is not under threat.'

Soler on Feb 14

'I'm still breathing, there's life in me yet.' Ranieri last weekend

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