Ranieri finds winning blend
Friday, August 27, 2004
Claudio Ranieri said he had inherited a "great" Valencia CF team after their UEFA Super Cup win.
By Adrian Harte in Monaco
The UEFA Super Cup occupies a curious position in the European football calendar. Janus-like it looks to both the future and the past: lauding last season's victors while signalling the new campaign with draws for both competitions.
That sense of transition was amplified by a glance at both team benches with both sides now under the stewardship of different coaches to those that masterminded last season's triumphs. Former Chelsea FC manager Claudio Ranieri has replaced the Liverpool FC-bound Rafael Benítez at Valencia CF and Víctor Fernández was now in charge at Porto after the departure of José Mourinho to replace Ranieri at Chelsea and Luigi Del Neri's extremely brief spell in charge.
Mourinho was not the only summer departure at Porto with Ricardo Carvalho and Paula Ferreira joining him at Chelsea and Deco leaving for FC Barcelona. The loss of that talented trio was keenly felt as Valencia claimed a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Rubén Baraja and Marco Di Vaio before Ricardo Quaresma's spectacular consolation.
Ranieri was quick to credit his players. He said: "It was wonderful to win the Super Cup after losing the Spanish Super Cup this week. It was great to win the Super Cup for the first time since 1980. I have to praise these players; they were superb. They gave everybody a lesson in character with this little revenge after this week's defeat."
Back at Valencia after laying the foundation for the recent success during his first spell with the club, Ranieri belied his Tinkerman sobriquet with most of the Valencia side that so impressed in winning the Primera División and the UEFA Cup was retained with ex-Juventus FC man Di Vaio starting up front alongside fellow Italian import Bernardo Corradi.
"I have received a great team from Rafa Benítez," Ranieri admitted. "They worked very well last season and I don't want to undo the work he has done. I will continue in this way as it is logical. I am lucky to have a team that can play with its eyes shut."
Some excellent play from the old and the new at Valencia paved the way for Baraja's goal. Curro Torres played a neat one-two with Di Vaio before crossing perfectly to the penalty spot where Baraja arrived unchallenged to head past Vítor Baía.
Valencia present and future blend also combined for Valencia's second. Vicente Rodríguez took on Giourkas Seitaridis before sending in a perfect centre from the right with Di Vaio stooping to beat Baía low to his left.
Porto fans, well outnumbered by their Valencia counterparts in the Stade Louis II, were given some hope for their UEFA Champions League title defence when Ricardo Quaresma, back playing in Portugal after a season with FC Barcelona, crashed home a stunning shot 12 minutes from time.
Fernández is aware that there is work to be done, saying: "We are missing pace and directness but I liked the performances of a few players. We have a lot to improve but that is normal at the beginning of the season."
But Valencia will feel confident of emulating Porto's feat of winning the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League in successive seasons after this display. The verve of last season is still there, with Carlsberg Man of the Match Baraja typically talismanic, and there seems to be a greater cutting edge, but, most crucially, the 1998/99 and 1999/00 Champions League runners-up have retained the winning habit they acquired last season.