Claudio Ranieri

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Lille starts Bielsa era with 3-0 win over Ranieri’s Nantes

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PARIS (AP) Lille’s attacking potential this season was on display as coach Marcelo Bielsa’s new team started its French league campaign with a 3-0 win over Nantes on Sunday.

[ MORE: Coutinho to Barca? And more transfer rumors ]

After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the Argentine coach – known as “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa) to his fans – with the aim of returning to the Champions League while playing an exciting brand of football.

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Lille also recruited more than a dozen of new players and the northern club’s squad appears to have gelled.

Facing an unimaginative side, Lille dominated from the start but had to wait until the 48th to open the scoring through Paraguay defender Junior Alonso. Nicolas De Preville doubled his team’s lead from the spot and Anwar El Ghazi put the win beyond doubt.

The match also featured a duel between Bielsa and another prominent coach, Italian Claudio Ranieri. The managers, who had a quick chat before the game, returned to the French top flight after spending several years away.

With better players at his disposal following Lille’s ambitious recruiting campaign this summer, Bielsa’s team was in control from the start.

“We played a high-energy match, on a fast rhythm, and we made only a few fouls,” Bielsa said. “I believe that we deserved the goals we scored, and that it is a fair result. Let’s see if we can keep that rhythm and speed we want to play with throughout the whole season.”

Lille imposed a fast tempo by pressing high on the pitch – the Argentine’s trademark – and created several chances in the opening stages with fast moves down the flanks that caught out the Nantes back four.

But for all their possession the hosts lacked a cutting edge in the box. Bielsa’s influence was evident in the 14th when Nicolas de Preville tried and missed an acrobatic volley. The French striker did not give up though, tracked the ball down and managed to recover it before setting up newly signed Luiz Araujo, whose shot was blocked.

Nantes could have moved ahead against the run of the play when Abdoulaye Toure recovered the ball 20 meters from the hosts’ box and forced Mike Maignan into a superb dive with a long and powerful shot. The Lille `keeper managed to parry the ball onto the crossbar and Prejuce Nakoulma, alone in front of goal, fluffed his header from close range.

Lille finally broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half after taking advantage of a poor clearance from Nantes captain Leo Dubois. Alonso received the ball outside the box and unleashed a powerful strike into the bottom corner.

Maignan made a decisive save in the next minute to deny Emiliano Sala’s chip attempt at the conclusion of a slick counterattack to keep his team’s lead intact.

Lille was awarded a penalty in the 68th after Kevin Malcuit was fouled by Nicolas Pallois in the box, and De Preville converted from the spot by sending Maxime Dupe the wrong way. El Ghazi made it 3-0 three minutes later with a clean finish. El Ghazi celebrated his goal by taking his shirt off, revealing a tribute to former Ajax teammate Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed during a pre-season game this summer and suffered brain damage.

Bielsa guided Marseille to a fourth-place finish in 2015 while Ranieri – who famously led English club Leicester to the Premier League title in 2016 – helped Monaco win the second division title in his first season, and then finish runner-up in the top flight in 2013-14.

Claudio Ranieri announced as new coach of Nantes

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Claudio Ranieri has landed.

The Italian manager who famously led Leicester City to the Premier League crown and was fired within a year has been hired by Ligue 1 side Nantes on a two-year deal.

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There was some speculation that Ranieri would return to the PL, but instead takes the reins of his second Ligue 1 club. Ranieri led Monaco to promotion from Ligue 2 and then a runner-up finish in Ligue 1.

He’s also managed Greece, Chelsea and a host of the biggest clubs in Italy including Inter Milan, Roma, Juventus, Napoli, and Fiorentina. Ranieri has also coached Valencia twice.

Ranieri needed a special dispensation from France to take the job, as he’s over the maximum coach’s age of 65.

Nantes granted special permission to hire 65-year-old Ranieri

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NANTES, France (AP) Claudio Ranieri will try to revive his career in France after the French soccer league gave permission to Nantes to hire the former Leicester manager on Tuesday.

According to several media reports in France, the Italian coach will sign a two-year deal and will be assisted by four deputy coaches.

Nantes had asked for a special dispensation because Ranieri has reached the coach’s age limit of 65.

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Ranieri, who guided Leicester to the English Premier League title in 2016 but was fired nine months later, will replace Sergio Conceicao. The Portuguese coach left Nantes earlier this month to take charge of FC Porto.

Ranieri has also coached Juventus, Roma and Inter Milan in his much-traveled career and was in charge of several other Italian sides as well as Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.

Under Ranieri’s guidance, Leicester won the Premier League at preseason odds of 5,000-1, a year after narrowly escaping relegation. He was fired in February with the team one point and one place above the relegation zone in a woeful title defense.

Ranieri has already coached in the French league, from 2012-14, when he won the League 2 title with Monaco then led the Principality side to a runner-up finish in the topflight.

[ MORE: England, France walk out to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” ]

Eight-time French champion Nantes was expected to continue with Conceicao this season after extending his contract until 2020. But Nantes said last week it had failed to persuade him to stay.

The former Portugal winger worked wonders in his short spell with Nantes. When Conceicao took charge in December the club was languishing in 19th place, but it went on to finish seventh – just outside of a spot in the Europa League.

Nantes won the last of its eight titles in 2001.

Ranieri offered Nantes spot, but wants a Premier League job

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According to the Telegraph, Claudio Ranieri has been offered the open managerial position at French club FC Nantes, but the Italian would favor to return to the Premier League, and is sitting on the Ligue 1 offer in the hopes that an English job will crop up.

Ranieri has been without a job after being fired by Leicester City in February, and wishes to return to the league where he won the title a year ago.

Nantes was left without a boss after Sergio Conceicao left last week to take the FC Porto job in his home country. Conceicao had joined Nantes in December and took the club from bottom of the table to a seventh-placed finish, just missing out on a Europa League berth.

There is only one Premier League position currently open, and that is at Crystal Palace where Sam Allardyce quit recently for undisclosed reasons. In the Championship, both Sunderland and Leeds United are without a manager, but it’s unclear if Ranieri would drop down a league with the Nantes offer already in hand.

Ranieri obviously has the Premier League title to his name, but it seems that clubs are wary of the circumstances surrounding his Leicester City exit. There were extensive rumors of player unrest, and for a squad to lose faith in the manager who brought them a historic championship is clearly giving clubs pause when it comes to hiring the Italian.

Ranieri speaks out on Leicester firing, backs his former players

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Claudio Ranieri left Leicester City with class, though he admits there was a problem at the club — and it wasn’t his players.

The Italian manager was fired in late February with Leicester embroiled in a relegation battle, less than one year after leading the Foxes to one of the most improbable title runs in soccer history.

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Reports emerged that some players wanted him out, and Leicester has responded with much improved form. But Ranieri says the impetus for his firing, beyond results, came from somewhere else, according to Sky Sports.

“I cannot believe that my players killed me. No, no, no.”

“Maybe it could be somebody behind me, but also the little problem I had the year before and we won the title. Maybe these people, this year, when we lose they push a little more. That’s it. I don’t want to tell. I am a serious man, a loyal man. What I have to say, I say face-to-face.”

The fallout from the Ranieri firing was wild, with Cesare Prandelli claiming he rejected replacing his fellow Italian based on Leicester’s actions and Jamie Vardy admitting his family received death threats over reports he was involved with the rancor.