Claudio Ranieri has returned to Valencia CF for his second spell as coach of the Spanish champions after signing a two-year contract with the option of a further 12 months.
I have returned home, my heart has never left this club," he said today. "I shared their sadness in the [UEFA] Champions League and their happiness in the UEFA Cup. I am grateful for the good squad that [former coach] Rafa [Benítez] has left me, many of whom I know from my previous time here. I promise to work my hardest to keep the team at the top.
"It's obvious that Valencia are a very strong side but the only thing that I hope for is that the team gets even better which I know will be difficult. In Spain, clubs like FC Barcelona are gaining ground fast and in Europe, the situation will be even tougher."
The 52-year-old Italian was in charge of Valencia from 1997-99, guiding them to a Copa del Rey triumph and qualification for the UEFA Champions League. His return was sealed after he came to a compensation agreement with his former club Chelsea FC after he was sacked just over a week ago.
Ranieri added: "I am grateful for Chelsea's help in bringing this to a swift conclusion and allowing me to take the next step in my career." At the Mestalla, Ranieri replaces Benítez, who resigned from his post seven days ago.
Valencia won the Spanish league and the UEFA Cup last season and won the race to secure Ranieri's services ahead of English club Tottenham Hotspur FC, with whom he also had talks. Ranieri, who spent four years at Chelsea, will bring with him his backroom team from Stamford Bridge - consisting of Ángelo Antenucci, Roberto Sassi and Giorgio Pellizzaro.
Before Valencia, Ranieri coached Campania, Cagliari Calcio, SSC Napoli and AC Fiorentina – where he won the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup in 1996 – in his homeland. After leaving the Mestalla in 1999 he had an eight-month spell at Club Atlético de Madrid but was unable to prevent the club being relegated to the Spanish second division for the first time in more 60 years and was dismissed shortly afterwards.
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