Claudio Ranieri, who masterminded the greatest upset in sports history with Leicester City and was fired not even a full year later, is on the precipice of his latest adventure, as he and Ligue 1 club Nantes have reached an agreement for him to become the team’s new manager. Because of a wacky French rule, though, the deal might fall through due to Ranieri’s age.
For the duration of Ranieri’s time in England, the charming Italian came off as a loveable grandpa who nobody could dislike. Unfortunately, his grandfatherliness might’ve come back to bite him now. As L’Équipe notes, Article 655 of the LFP’s (France’s league soccer governing body) rulebook forbids any team from hiring a coach who is over the age of 65. Ranieri turned 65 in October, and thus by the letter of the law is unable to coach Nantes.
This weird rule has come into play before. French manager Guy Roux, who coached AJ Auxerre for more than 40 years, attempted to come out of retirement in 2007 to coach RC Lens, but since he was 68 years old at the time, the LFP invalidated his contract with the club. This was a big to-do in France, with even then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy commenting on the matter through a spokesman: “He (Sarkozy) finds this decision regrettable. The President believes it is the rule that is old, not Guy Roux.”
Ultimately, Lens and Roux appealed the LFP’s decision to the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, where the LFP’s ruling was overturned. Roux was able to coach the team after all. Then two months later, after just four Ligue 1 matches, Roux resigned. Lens was relegated by season’s end.
In this instance, it appears that Ranieri won’t have as much trouble managing deep into his dotage as Roux did. According to the same L’Équipe article, Nantes have asked the LFP for an exemption from the rule, and they expect it to be granted. Hopefully Ranieri’s over-65 tenure lasts longer than Roux’s.
Update [Tuesday, June 13th]: As expected, reports out of France say the LFP has indeed green-lit Ranieri’s hiring. Bonne chance, Claudio.