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The Claudio Ranieri Story That Shows Just How Great Damien Duff Was At His Peak

The Claudio Ranieri Story That Shows Just How Great Damien Duff Was At His Peak
By Gary Reilly Updated
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It's Damien Duff's 37 birthday today so to mark this auspicious occasion, we though it only right to go back to our favourite ever tribute to one of Irish football's true greats.

It would have been easy to forget just how good Damien Duff was at the peak of his powers. A combination of injuries and Jose Mourinho's more conservative approach to wingers ensured that the Duffer we knew and loved didn't really reach the same heights after his early years at Stamford Bridge.

Duff was the first major (i.e. expensive) signing of the Roman Abramovich era and under Claudio Ranieri he was magical when he was fit. The first couple of years under Mourinho continued in the same manner and alongside Arjen Robben, Chelsea had the most effective wingers in the Premier League.

And just in case some of their newer/younger fans had forgotten that, Chelsea paid tribute to Duffer in December when he announced his retirement with a reminder of what he was like at his very best.

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And while goals against Barcelona are all well and good, we'd prefer the man of the moment, Claudio Ranieri, to fill us in as to why Duff is such a hero among Irish football fans.

The following quote came at the end of Ranieri's Chelsea reign. May 2004 and everyone, including the Italian, knew that Jose Mourinho was going to take his job in the coming months. There had been suggestions that Abramovich had been sticking his nose in to the tactical side of things as a technical advisor of sorts, to which Ranieri replied;

My only technical adviser is my mother. When I told her that Damien had injured his shoulder again, she said 'Oh no! Who should replace him?' I will call her before the game to ask.

Damien is Damien. When I don't put him in the squad my mother, who's 84, asks 'why isn't Damien playing?' She kills me about it and that's true.

Earlier that year, with Duff out injured, the then Tinkerman was lamenting the loss of the Irish maestro.

He is an amazing player. He has ability, speed, he can dribble, cross the ball - I want him to play as he can. Duff is the man who can open every door. He can score a goal and make one, too. His qualities are very important to us.

Ranieri was then asked to compare Duff to another player, to which he once again turned to his mother.

My mother says he is like Nedved.

We know nothing else about Claudio Ranieri's mother other than the fact she is a very wise woman.

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