Leicester City v Hull City: Andrea Ranocchia providing Italian elan and embracing English passion

IN select parts of fashion-conscious Italy, a new range of amber and black apparel is currently doing the rounds.

Key signing: Hull City loan signing and Italy defender Andrea Ranocchia has impressed in short time with the Tigers. (Picture: Adam Davy/PA)

You may just spot it on a Premier League match-day in the province of Perugia or even in the chic capital of style, Milan, if you are very lucky.

Those aforesaid colours are being adorned by Hull City loan defender Andrea Ranocchia and, given the evidence of his opening four outings for the Tigers, they suit him well.

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The 29-year-old centre-back, who joined on loan for the rest of the season at the end of the winter window, has strutted his stuff with elan, no mean feat given that the opposition has included Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

For his own sake, the timing of Ranocchia’s first foray into English football was apposite.

Out of the picture at Inter Milan, Ranocchia – who hails from the town of Assisi, close to the Umbrian capital of Perugia – linked up with a Hull side energised by the arrival of new head coach Marco Silva. The brochure for prospective new signings did not look quite so glossy at the start of 2017.

Ranocchia has been effused since by his experiences at Hull and while rugby league is widely perceived as the first sporting love in the East Yorkshire city, he admits he has been taken aback by his first-hand experiences of the passion for the beautiful game in his adopted new home.

Coming from someone whose parent club are one of the most famous names in European football, let alone Italian, it is some statement.

Ranocchia said: “It is the best league in the world and there is nobody who would not want to play here.

“I am still amazed even now at how people live football. It is something I always wanted to do (play in England). Even with the journalists and fans, everything is different from the way it is in Italy and it is great.

“The biggest difference here, which I saw straightaway, is that it is lived here as a sport. The sport is a way of life rather than something on the side like in Italy.

“The whole atmosphere around the ground is a better experience and there are lots of families attending games in England and that is not necessarily the same in Italy.

“My friends and family have bought the shirts and scarves and given the Instagram and Facebook pages the likes. Everyone is converted.

“I spoke to other players who had played in England and they said it would be very different and difficult and that you might struggle.

“But I have got here and phoned them since and said, ‘no, it is great, I am happier here than I was in Italy’.”

The history of Italian players in Premier League football is certainly a chequered one. For every Gianfranco Zola, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli, there is an Andrea Dossena, Andrea Silenzi or Alberto Aquilani.

Ditto in the managerial stakes, too, with the likes of Antonio Conte, Claudio Ranieri and Carlo Ancelotti enjoying their time over here in top-flight management rather more than Paolo Di Canio, Francesco Guidolin and Atilio Lombardo.

Ranocchia cites Conte – highly likely to become the next Italian to manage a Premier League title-winning side by quickly following in the footsteps of Ranieri – as a big influence in his career, having been handed his chance by the Chelsea manager at the start of his career at Serie B side Arezzo.

Conte subsequently took the defender to Bari and also handed him opportunities during his time managing Italy. Ranocchia has plenty for which to thank him.

Ranocchia, capped 21 times for the Azzurri, said: “I would put Antonio Conte at the top of that list (of influences).

“He is someone who I had the pleasure of working with for a few years and he made me improve as a footballer.

“I started my playing career at the same time as he started his managerial career. We won the league at Bari (Serie B in 2008-09) together and we have gone on this path together and obviously being able to play at a national level was important.”

The machinations of football are such that Ranocchia will not see another of his former bosses today in Ranieri following the Roman’s brutal sacking by champions Leicester last week – the pair worked together at Inter.

Like everyone else in football, he was shocked by the axeing of Ranieri, just nine months after taking a team of 5,000-1 outsiders to the title.

But Ranocchia’s sole concern today is taking care of business alongside his Hull team-mates, with the game with the Foxes being the first instalment of a big double-header that will also see the Tigers welcome Swansea City in another crunch relegation game next weekend.

He said: “It would have been nice to see Ranieri. I have not seen him since he left Inter, so it has been a long time.

“His sacking was a real surprise because he created footballing history last season.

“But the important thing is going to Leicester and picking up points more than anything else.”

Regarding his long-term future, Ranocchia is not looking too far ahead and given the fluctuating nature of Premier League life, it is perhaps a wise philosophy.

The Italian commented: “Who knows? We saw with Ranieri; he won the league one season and he has been sacked the next. I will get to the end of this season and work hard and see what happens after that