Roma hires Ranieri as coach until the end of the season

ROME (AP) — Roma appointed Claudio Ranieri as interim coach on Friday, a day after firing Eusebio Di Francesco following the Italian team’s elimination from the Champions League.

The 67-year-old Ranieri, who will be interim coach until the end of the season, flew to Rome on Friday and signed a contract until June 30.

It will be the Rome-born Ranieri’s second spell as coach of the club, having previously been in charge from 2009-11.

“I’m delighted to be coming back home,” said Ranieri, who grew up supporting the team. “When Roma call you, it’s impossible to say no.”

Ranieri, who led Leicester to the 2016 Premier League title, was fired by Fulham last week.

During his first spell in charge of Roma, Ranieri led the team to a second-place finish in Serie A, two points behind Inter Milan. That team also lost the Italian Cup final to Inter.

“We are delighted to welcome Claudio Ranieri back to the club,” Roma president James Pallotta said.

Roma fired De Francesco a day after the team lost to Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League. That defeat came on the heels of a 3-0 loss to crosstown rival Lazio in Serie A, with the team fifth in the standings and in danger of missing out on next season’s Champions League.

Roma sports director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, known as Monchi, left the club on Friday.

“We have one objective remaining this season and that is to finish in the highest possible league position and secure qualification for the Champions League,” Pallotta said. “At this stage of the campaign, it was important to bring in a coach who knows the club, understands the environment, can speak the language and is able to motivate the players. Claudio ticks all of those boxes and he’s very excited to take on this challenge.”

Ranieri’s first match in charge will be against relegation-threatened Empoli on Monday.

The top four from Serie A qualify for next season’s Champions League. Roma is three points behind fourth-place Inter and four below AC Milan.

“Claudio’s from the city, he’s a Roma fan but more than that, he’s one of the most experienced coaches in world soccer,” Roma director and former player Francesco Totti said. “What we need now is a safe pair of hands to guide us back into the top four and ensure that we are playing Champions League soccer again next season. We have 12 games left and we need to win as many of them as possible.”