Thursday 08 December 2016, 04:08

Baresi: Ranieri pulled off a miracle

Italian legend Franco Baresi has put his weight behind compatriot Claudio Ranieri to walk away from the FIFA Football Awards 2016 with the coveted title of The Best FIFA Men’s Coach.

Baresi, lauded as one of the greatest defenders to play the game having dominated European football as part of the all-conquering AC Milan side of the 1980’s and 90’s, sat down with to discuss those in the running for gongs at the annual award ceremony on 9 January 2017.

Renowned as a steely character – Il Capitano famously left 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™ for knee surgery mid-tournament, only to return to take on Brazil in the final – he was considered and open in giving his take on Claudio Ranieri, Fernando Santos and Zinedine Zidane’s 2016 on the touchline.

“All three nominees had a fantastic year,” Baresi said of the Leicester City, Portugal and Real Madrid coaches. “Santos won his country’s first-ever European Championship, while Zidane won the Champions League. As for Ranieri, he pulled off something of a miracle with Leicester. There isn’t really another word to describe his Premier League victory.

“It’s often quite difficult to work out who did the best job in a given year, but this year, I’d opt for Ranieri without hesitation, given the scale of his achievement.”

It’s very difficult to separate them; all three are very gifted.

Having taken on the likes of Marco van Basten every day in Milan training, and keeping Romario quiet in that goalless USA 1994 final, it’s fair to say the former sweeper knows a talented forward when he sees one. Having also won gold, silver and bronze medals at FIFA World Cup 1982, 1994 and 1990 respectively, three European Cups and six Serie A titles, it’s clear he got the better of plenty of them in his time, too.

So, it follows that the man who wore the captain’s armband for i Rossoneri over 15 years has authority when it comes running the rule across the attacking talents vying to be called The Best FIFA Men’s Player – namely Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi.

“It’s very difficult to separate them; all three are very gifted,” the Azzurri great admitted. “They’re pretty much as good as each other, even though they have slightly different skillsets out on the pitch.

“Ronaldo, for example, is a highly talented player. He’s capable of scoring goals from anywhere and from any position, with his right foot, his left, his head or with a backheel, and from long range or from close in. No matter where he picks up the ball, he just fires it into the back of the net. Messi is very different. It’s his technique and ball-handling skills that make him stand out. Both of them are great players and both deserve to be recognised.”

However, while those down at pitch-level are understandably the focus for supporters around the world, Baresi took the chance to talk up the FIFA Fan Award, which will acknowledge the exceptional displays by those in the stands, with the three nominees to be announced on 9 December.

“This award is going to really help football,” said Baresi. “It will encourage supporters to avoid resorting to violence within stadiums. Instead, perhaps they will turn their attention to all the choreographed displays you see now and try to win this prize."