After almost a decade away, Claudio Ranieri has answered Roma’s call once more and stepped in as coach of the crisis-stricken club, following the dismissal of Eusebio Di Francesco on Thursday.
The veteran tactician has never hidden his love for his hometown team and, after previously coaching the club from 2009 to 2011, the opportunity to guide his beloved Roma out of a particularly sticky patch, even if only until the end of the season, was too great a lure to resist.
Sitting in fifth place in Serie A, to say Roma are underachieving this term is quite the understatement. Wednesday’s agonising extra-time defeat to Porto saw the Giallorossi crash out of the Champions League at the First Knockout Round, whilst Fiorentina inflicted a humiliating 7-1 thrashing in the Coppa Italia to ensure another season devoid of a trophy.
Ranieri, meanwhile, was last seen fighting a losing battle at Premier League relegation-fodder Fulham and was sacked by the Craven Cottage club last month. So what does this reunion mean for both Roma and Ranieri?
With hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League far from out of the question, the short-term arrival of Ranieri could go someway towards addressing the most stark issue at the Stadio Olimpico, a disconnect between club and fans.
The Lupi faithful have endured a torrid season that was marked by wholesale changes in the transfer market, seeing stars such as Alisson, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman offloaded in favour of cheaper and less effective alternatives in the mould of Robin Olsen and Javier Pastore.
This has led to resentment aimed at the directorial level of the club, particularly president James Pallotta and sporting director Monchi. Indeed, the latter found himself in the midst of a heated public argument with ultras following the Porto defeat and stepped aside himself on Friday.
Ranieri’s arrival goes someway towards bridging that gap. The former Inter boss is a proud Romanista, whilst the acknowledged short-term approach allows him to strike a chord with fans whilst also implementing the structures put in place by the club. Understanding what it means to be a Roma fan gives him an immediate advantage, and the tifosi are likely to cut him some slack in return as they see one of their own on the touchline.
Beyond that, Roma must be hoping that the 67-year-old can have a similar impact to Luciano Spalletti in 2016, who returned to the club after a decade away to revive a team that had become stale under Rudi Garcia.
The Giallorossi ended the season in spectacular style after his January arrival and went on to claim a record points haul the following season. If Ranieri can reinvigorate a talented squad that lacked direction under Di Francesco, with the added advantage of knowing the role already, a similarly blistering end to the campaign is not beyond the realms of possibility.
However, Pallotta must be wary of his new man’s track record, despite the glaring once-in-a-lifetime Premier League triumph with Leicester City in 2016 on his CV. Either side of bringing stunning success to the Foxes, Ranieri failed miserably at Monaco, Greece and with Fulham.
Indeed, his remit with the latter was to motivate and get the best out of an expensively-assembled but faltering side that were going nowhere under former coach Slavisa Jokanovic. Sacked after just three wins from 17 matches, it is hardly a glowing indictment for a man brought in to get a good team firing on all cylinders. Has Ranieri lost the Midas touch?
Yet there is hope for Roma. In his first stint at the helm of the club he represented as a player, Ranieri took over a Giallorossi team struggling in the lower reaches of the table under Spalletti in 2009.
Through a mixture of adventurous football and perfect man-management, the capital club turned their campaign around and were still in the running for the Scudetto on the final day of the season, before finishing a creditable second behind Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Inter.
He has done it before, but whether there is enough of the old magic still available to cajole this team over the finishing line remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, a second bite of the cherry at a club so close to his heart could provide the springboard to restore Ranieri’s reputation. Still riding the wave of his sensational triumph with Leicester, Ranieri has nonetheless found the bigger jobs hard to come by.
Proving his worth once more in the footballing bear pit of Rome midway through a miserable season could be the perfect antidote and increase his credibility when the big teams come searching for a coach.
The ‘Tinkerman’, as he was labelled at Chelsea for his penchant for squad rotation, must bring the confidence back at the Stadio Olimpico before leaving his beloved club in a solid condition for a more permanent coach next term.
With a team short of self-belief and in the middle of a dispute between fans and directors, it will be far from easy. However, a quick glance in the direction of Leicester shows that if anyone can perform miracles, it is Ranieri.