Claudio Ranieri arrives at Watford training ground to complete sensational return to English football

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Claudio Ranieri has arrived at Watford to complete a shock return to English football.

The Italian was this morning finalising a deal to take over as Watford head coach after they sacked Xisco Munoz.

Xisco yesterday became the first Premier League manager to lose his job when he left Watford following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds.

It left Watford looking for their 15th permanent manager in a decade and they immediately identified Ranieri as the man they want to come in to turn their fortunes around.

Ranieri, who guided Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2016 and turns 70 later this month, left his role as Sampdoria manager at the end of last season.

Watford held positive talks with Ranieri last night and he arrived at the Watford training ground this morning to finalise a deal.

The former Chelsea manager is excited by the prospect of working in England again and has a point to prove after his last spell in the Premier League with Fulham ended in disappointment.

Ranieri was appointed by Fulham in November 2018 and tasked with keeping them in the Premier League, but he was sacked after just 106 days in the job and the Cottagers were eventually relegated.

Watford will be hoping Ranieri performs much better with them and there is belief among the club’s hierarchy they have a squad capable of avoiding the drop.

Ranieri is seen as an ideal appointment given his vast managerial experience and he recently did an excellent job at Sampdoria. He took charge of the Italian club in October 2019 when they were bottom of Serie A and he guided them to a 15th-placed that season. Last season they finished ninth and Sampdoria wanted Ranieri to sign a new deal, but he was keen to explore other options.

Watford and Xisco parted ways with the Hornets sat 15th in the Premier League with seven points from their opening seven games.

The Spaniard, who was only hired last December and guided Watford to promotion from the Championship, said: “It’s been a wonderful journey and it concluded in a way that I neither expected nor wished for.”

The dismissal of Xisco caught many by surprise, but Watford decided to act after growing concerns about the team’s performances.

The Hornets drew 1-1 with Newcastle on September 25 but they looked worryingly disorganised and conceded 20 shots on goal in that game. It was a similar story during Saturday’s defeat to Leeds as the hosts had 20 shots.

“We knew what Leeds were about, we knew they were going to be pressing us all the time, they were high tempo, they would never stop running,” said goalkeeper Ben Foster.

“We spoke about it all week in training and then we got to the match and we didn’t do a single thing that we wanted - which is very concerning.”

Alarm bells were already ringing among the Watford hierarchy before the loss to Leeds, but Foster’s comments would have reinforced their view it was time for a change ahead of a gruelling run of fixtures.

In their next eight games Watford will face Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Leicester, Chelsea and Manchester City.

“The board feels recent performances strongly indicate a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving,” Watford said in a statement yesterday.

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Watford part company with head coach Xisco Munoz after seven Premier League games

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