Claudio Ranieri named FIFA Men's Coach of the Year for 2016

Photo of Claudio Ranieri named FIFA Men's Coach of the Year for 2016

After engineering a miracle Premier League triumph with Leicester City, veteran Italian tactician Claudio Ranieri has been rewarded with 2016's inaugural Best FIFA Men's Coach of the Year award in Zurich.

Ranieri beat out Zinedine Zidane - who incredibly trumped just two defeats for Real Madrid over 2016 with three major titles in his first year as a senior boss - and Fernando Santos, the veteran overseer of Portugal's unlikely European Championship win over the tournament's host France.

Ranieri, a contentious appointment in the east Midlands after his tough tenure in charge of Greece, expertly blended a throng of has-beens and write-offs at Leicester to guide it to the summit of English football in 2015-16.

His previous experience in England was restricted to under four years at Chelsea which ended 11 years earlier, and no one - not even celebrity fan and Leicester great Gary Lineker - predicted what was to come. If anything, relegation appeared a distinct and harrowing possibility.

The barrel-chested skipper Wes Morgan, who grappled with attackers and was uncompromising in the tackle throughout that historic campaign, perhaps epitomised the side he led out.

"His socks didn't go up to his knees because his calves were too big, his legs rubbed together and his shirt was skin tight. He was well overweight," ex-Nottingham Forest academy director John Pemberton recalled to BBC Sport of Morgan's 2001 arrival, coming after he was shamefully dumped by neighbour and minnow Notts County.

Thirteen years later and at the age of 30, Morgan finally made his debut in the English top flight and, in under 21 months, he was a Premier League winner. Much of the plaudits, however, went to N'Golo Kante's indefatigable work in the midfield, and a now-iconic attacking duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy - names that wouldn't have been familiar to many football fans just nine months earlier.

Mahrez, from French non-league reject to PFA Player of the Year winner, and Vardy, a Yorkshire lad who chews tobacco and is attuned to factory work, led the frontline in swashbuckling fashion. Vardy scored 26 goals and assisted for six, Mahrez added 17 strikes and 11 helpers, and Leicester eventually romped to the title 10 points better off than second-placed Arsenal.

In collecting this accolade, Ranieri overcame astronomical odds of 5000-1, won legions of fans across the planet, and upset the equilibrium in the country's game with a unique blend of players who all had one quality in common: industriousness.

And throughout perhaps the greatest upset in football's long history - certainly a strong case for that label in England, at least - was always accompanied by Ranieri's infectious affable demeanour.

Things haven't fared so well in the opening half of the 2016-17 term, with Leicester at risk of being dragged into a battle for survival domestically, but Ranieri steered the Foxes into the knockout rounds of the Champions League - finishing above FC Porto, Copenhagen, and Club Brugge in the group stage of the outfit's first appearance in the competition.

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