top article by the top man....specially the part about ranieri buying him chocolate biscuits
All hail Claudio Ranieri
Parma fans welcome new manager
Tuesday February 13, 2007
"Don't worry, Jimbo, the biscuits are on me". Photograph: Getty Images.
For the English, he's the proud and ultimately wronged man who made a bit of a hash of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final. For the Spanish, he's the gaffer who blew his reputation at Valencia by buying Bernardo Corradi and generally being Italian. For this reporter, meanwhile, he's the top gent who once got me an extra bag of chocolate biscuits in a top Milanese eaterie. So, all hail Claudio Ranieri: cups may come and go but it's little gestures like that one that truly mark the measure of a man.
Late this Monday night Claudio provided an after-dinner treat for a whole new set of people by taking over at Parma. It ends eight years of absence from his native league, and much has changed in the meantime. When Ranieri was last striding the touchlines of Serie A at Fiorentina, Parma were one of his rivals for the title, but since then Parma have collapsed like Cristiano Ronaldo in a sudden gust of wind, while Ranieri has been off abroad, building and then blowing a fine reputation at Valencia on either side of his stint at the nascent Chelski. His second spell in Spain had left him with his usual fat payoff but whenever I saw him he nonetheless struggled to disguise a yearning for his days on the bench, a longing no amount of bite-sized baked delights seemed able to satisfy. "What I want is a good project," he'd say, wistfully motioning the waiter over again.
Has he got one now? At first glance Parma look anything but promising. The spectacular bankruptcy of their former owners Parmalat saw the team stripped back and placed in the hands of the official receivers, since when they've faced an annual battle against the drop. They're down in the bottom three again this season and until recently looked to have as much chance of staying up as a narcoleptic on Night Nurse.
Now, however, there are signs that things are changing. Three weeks ago Parma were finally bought by a consortium of local industrialists, who immediately snapped up former Parma youth product Giuseppe Rossi on loan from Manchester United. For a club where Fernando Couto now passes as a big name player (as opposed to just a big haired player) this was something of a coup, and Rossi immediately made his mark by scoring the winner against Torino to net Parma only their third victory of the season. Now the arrival of Ranieri is being hailed by the Stadio Tardini faithful as further proof that the new owners mean business. Claudio is, by their consensus, the genuine article, and one of the best managers available. "With Claudio we could stay up playing with just eight players," boasts one happy fan, and with card magnets like Domenico Morfeo and the aforementioned Couto in the side, he may yet get his wish.
"The project right now is staying up, which is why I've only signed until June. After that we'll see", says Ranieri. "But this is a now a solid club with serious intentions, and they want to build Parma back up again." Some might shudder at the thought of the twinkly-eyed Tinkerman in the dog-eat-dog world of a relegation scrap but Ranieri points out he's been here before. "When I brought Cagliari up from the third division to the first in straight seasons, we had to really battle then to stay up. I'm looking forward to the challenge again."
Parma have a Uefa cup tie this week which they evidently couldn't care less about, given that they've changed bosses just two days before it. Far more important is Sunday's fixture at Sampdoria, which has to mark the start of a new campaign against the drop. They currently lie three points from safety after Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Roma, but with Messina and, increasingly, Torino looking as cooked as those famous Milanese chocolate snaps, who'd bet against them? Top scorer Igor Budan and Rossi are a quality pair up front, and Morfeo, one of the greatest Italian players never to make it big, is on hand to provide the flair. In short, the outlook is anything but Claudio.
And while we wait to see how the cookie crumbles for Parma's new boss, there's just time for a cursory round up of the rest of the league. The big news of the weekend was Ronaldo's debut at Milan - the big man didn't score but he looked far from washed up, stinging the hands of Livorno's keeper with one blast from range and narrowly missing with another two shots. "The goals will come soon enough," grinned Ronie after, "and there'll be plenty of 'em." However it was Ronaldo's fellow new arrival, goalkeeper Marco Storari, who turned out to be the real hero of the afternoon, making several crucial saves in a 2-1 win.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was missing for Inter but Adriano came up with his best goal of the season (alright, he's only scored four) just 45 seconds in as he helped power Roberto Mancini's side to their 15th straight win. "We might as well be playing in Scotland," as Mancini himself was careful not to say after the game. Meanwhile, Roma stayed 11 points back with that win over Parma, while Francesco Totti became the leading active scorer in Serie A with his 139th career goal. Considering he's spent most of his life as a midfielder, that's some going.
Next weekend Roma are at surprise packages Empoli while Inter host Cagliari, and Milan - now just two points from the top 4 - visit Siena. We'll have all the details here next week, so see you then.