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Claudio Ranieri has identified a need to "rewire the players' mentalities" at FC Internazionale Milano as he continues trying to turn the club's fortunes around following his appointment last month.
The 60-year-old has developed a reputation as a safe pair of hands for teams desperate to salvage their seasons, having previously been brought in to resuscitate Parma FC and AS Roma. He was therefore considered a natural choice when Gian Piero Gasperini was relieved of his duties just three games into the Serie A campaign.
Not everything has gone Ranieri's way since he took charge, but crucially he has lifted Internazionale to the top of UEFA Champions League Group B following away wins at PFC CSKA Moskva and LOSC Lille Métropole. "
When changes like this happen, above all you need to rewire the players' mentalities because if a coach is replaced things are going badly," he said.
"You need to bring back self-esteem and the lads need to start believing in themselves again and take risks like they used to. But you've also got to get them back to playing the sort of football they're used to, which means being very compact as a team, because when I faced Inter as an opponent that was always their strength."
Boasting spells at SSC Napoli, ACF Fiorentina, Valencia CF, Club Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC and Juventus on his CV, Ranieri has lent his abilities to some big names in European football, yet he admitted that taking the call from Inter president Massimo Moratti was a particular honour. "The appeal of this job is the different emotions it brings," he explained.
"It's what makes you feel alive. Coming here to manage Inter – it's a famous club, they've played a major role in the history of Italian, European and world football, so there's a sense of respect and responsibility which draws you in and makes you proud."
While Gasperini was criticised for his rigid faith in a three-man defence, Ranieri has brought a tactical flexibility to the 2010 UEFA Champions League winners – triumphing with a 4-4-2 formation in Moscow and then a 4-3-1-2 approach in Lille. Nicknamed 'the Tinkerman' in England, he is likely to keep adjusting his template as he attempts to lead Inter back up Serie A and into the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
"I've never been a manager who believes too much in formations," he said. "
I don't think you win with 4-3-2-1 – you win with your players, because the players are the soul of your club. You also win with a squad in which everyone's moving in the right direction." Despite a few blips along the way, the signs are that Ranieri's Inter are recovering well.
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