In the buildup to Fulham’s crucial relegation six-pointer against Burnley, Claudio Ranieri spoke about Fulham’s need to sign experienced leaders in January.
The Fulham manager’s comments on his team’s lack of players with “character” will surely come as a blow to club captain Tom Cairney’s confidence.
After Ranieri arrived at Craven Cottage in November, Cairney saw his role as an undisputed starter challenged in SW6.
Often shunted out to the wing and removed from his favoured central midfield position, the Scottish international endured difficult performances in recent months.
Although Cairney was re-established in central midfield for the second half against Huddersfield and versus Arsenal, questions over his leadership and desire on the pitch have been raised by the Fulham support.
And in Ranieri’s pre-match comments, reported by football.london, the Italian delivered an implicit dig to Cairney’s leadership qualities as captain.
“I repeat, we have a very good team but without experience and then we need someone who has experience, leader, good character, that’s his personality, and then we can improve our team,” Ranieri said.
The answer was in response to whether Fulham were looking at players such as Gary Cahill, and Ranieri’s response revealed the manager’s displeasure with the quality of leaders currently in the Fulham squad.
When a manager publicly puts out a call for more leaders in a squad, the comments have to be seen as a rebuke to the club captain, which must have Tom Cairney feeling slighted.