Ranieri relishes return to England
It is eight years since Claudio Ranieri managed in the Premier League - but he has lost none of the charm that made him English football's favourite uncle during his stint as Chelsea manager.
Win, lose or draw during his time at Stamford Bridge, the Italian would always produce a smile (and often a comedy quote or two) during his post-match interviews.
He never really mastered the English language but that did not stop him giving it a go.
The 60-year-old was just as amiable when I met him in person during a recent flying visit to London to talk about Chelsea's prospects, and his own plans.
"My English is not bad after all this time?" Ranieri asks at one point, with a trademark grin.
He is right and, if he has his way, he could get a lot more practice in over the coming months - because it turns out Ranieri loves English football just as much as English football loved him.
He only left his last job at Inter Milan at the end of March but the Italian does not want to be out of the game for long, and a return to these shores is his preferred destination.
Why England? "I had a great relationship with the fans here," Ranieri said. "Not only the Chelsea fans - when I go around Europe and meet English fans they are always pleased to see me. A lot of people remember me.
"Another reason I would like to continue my career in England is because all the best players are playing here now. I have managed in Italy, Spain and this country, and I think the Premier League is the strongest."
He has had stints at Valencia, Parma, Juventus, Roma and Inter since leaving Chelsea but, in truth, Ranieri never really went away. When his four-year spell with the Blues ended in 2004 Ranieri kept his house in west London. He loves the capital and has come back as often as possible in the last few years.
Where will he go next? Ranieri almost took over at Manchester City in 2007 and was linked with QPR a few months ago but there are no current Premier League vacancies and he will not be drawn on whether he has any suitors, or indeed a specific club in mind himself.
"It is my life to be a coach," he explained. "And of course I would like to come back as soon as possible, but now it is important to take the right job. I would like the right project, a good project."
We can still speculate, though, and the signs are Tottenham may need a new manager soon and there are suggestions that David Moyes might move on from Everton this summer.
Might Ranieri fit the bill as a safe pair of hands to be Harry Redknapp's replacement at White Hart Lane should he take charge of England?
They could certainly do worse. Ranieri was sacked by Inter after a sequence of one win in 10 Serie A games that has left their Champions League qualification in doubt but, before then, they were title contenders thanks to an impressive run which started when he took charge in September.
And, although his reputation in this country is for being the "Tinkerman" because of his willingness to change his tactics and his Chelsea team as often as his socks, he is viewed as a calming influence in Italy after impressive spells at Parma, Juventus and Roma.
Chelsea might also be looking for a new manager in the summer, of course, although Ranieri thinks their interim boss Roberto di Matteo is the right man for that job. In any case, the chances of him returning to Stamford Bridge are a little more far-fetched.
"I don't think about it, but why say no?" he says with another smile when I ask him about whether he fancies renewing his working relationship with Blues owner Roman Abramovich.
Judging from the number of managers the Russian has got through in his nine years in west London (six permanent, two interim and one caretaker), Abramovich's expectations are one of the biggest problems facing any Chelsea manager.
But, as Ranieri knows only too well, there are trigger-happy owners, chairmen and presidents everywhere, and he thinks a patient approach is more likely to pay off.
"In our job, all the managers have to deal with pressure. In England, Italy, Spain, everywhere," he explained. "This job is not an easy job.
"Everybody knows football - when you win you are fantastic. When you lose, you are the worst in the world. But that is our life.
"Look at Manchester City, they are having a good season and Roberto Mancini has done a very good job - but only one team can win the title and, for a lot of their players this is the first time they are fighting for a big title.
"I know this pressure. It is not easy to build. All the people need time, no? Rome wasn't built in a day."