Beaten Ranieri revels in warm welcome at Chelsea

February 26th, 2009 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

ChelseaLondon, Feb 26 (DPA) Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri tasted defeat on his return Wednesday to Chelsea, but the Italian said that he still had fond memories of his time as head coach at Stamford Bridge.

Ranieri was back five years after his departure and received a standing ovation from the London club’s fans, who still hold him in high regard.

Didier Drogba’s first-half goal rather spoiled his enjoyment of the evening as Chelsea beat his Juventus side 1-0, but Ranieri will fancy his chances of orchestrating a turnaround in the return leg in a fortnight’s time in Italy.

“I was extremely happy (with the ovation) because it shows that they haven’t forgotten me,” Ranieri said. “I spent four wonderful years here. In football, people tend to forget things very quickly, so I’d like to thank them.”

Juventus had plenty of the ball in the second half and were unlucky not to pinch a crucial away goal.

“I would have preferred to play less well and to get a better result,” Ranieri said.

“The Tinker Man”, as he was nicknamed in the media for his tendency to make several changes from game to game, failed to win a trophy in his time at the English club from September 2000-May 2004.

But he still took Chelsea into the top four of the Premier League and helped them to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Ranieri’s activity in the transfer market - signing Joe Cole, Scott Parker, Glen Johnson, William Gallas, Emmanuel Petit, Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Hernan Crespo, Sebastian Veron, Arjen Robben and Claude Makelele - helped build Chelsea into the side they are today.

“He should take credit,” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard had said in the build-up to the game. “He brought a lot of important players to the team. He signed good players even before the Roman Abramovich era. He elevated John Terry to captain, and he’s become one of the best in the world since.”

Lampard himself was among those signed during Ranieri’s tenure.

“He took Chelsea from a side that finished in the top six to one that finished in the top four,” Lampard said. “I don’t think I would be sitting here if hadn’t been for him.”

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