Ranocchia has been described as a large, strong, aggressive, and physically imposing centre back, with good tactical knowledge and concentration, as well as an ability to read the game and time his tackles well. He has predominantly drawn praise for his aerial ability, making him a goal threat from set pieces, and former Inter centre back Marco Materazzi has described Ranocchia as his heir due to his own aerial prowess. A former attacking midfielder, he is also known for being comfortable in possession due to his solid technique and reliable distribution, which allows to him to play the ball out from the back or carry it out from the defence; these qualities initially led him to be compared to Alessandro Nesta in the Italian media, a player whom he admires. He is capable of playing in any position in a three–man defence, or as part of a central defensive partnership in a four–man back-line, although he is more suited to the former system; he has also occasionally been used as a full-back on either side of the pitch. Regarded as one of the most promising Italian defenders of his generation in his youth, he was regarded as one of the best defenders in Serie A in his early career, even winning the Premio Armando Picchi in 2011, which is awarded to the best Italian under-23 defender in Italy, and pertains to playing ability as well as personality and fair-play. Former Inter full-back and captain Javier Zanetti has also praised Ranocchia for his leadership, which eventually saw him inherit the role of club captain in 2014. In February 2019, Inter manager Luciano Spalletti praised his leadership, stating: “Ranocchia is the real captain because he is the one who speaks often, whose messages on social media everyone gets. He is the leader that is in the squad but you don’t notice him, but during the difficult times steps out and says what needs to be said.” Despite his reputation as a generally reliable defender, in recent seasons, Ranocchia has, however, drawn criticism due to his decision making, inconsistency, and proneness to errors when under pressure, as well as his lack of pace, while his fitness has also been affected by several injuries. As such, he has been accused by some pundits in the Italian media of failing to live up to his initial potential. Moreover, despite his leadership, dedication, and professionalism, he has also been criticised for his mentality, as well as his lack of a strong character or personality, which is thought to have limited his development as a player, and to have been one of the reasons behind his increasing lack of first team appearances as his career progressed. Aside from his regular position of central defender, Ranocchia has played several times as a makeshift target forward when his team lacked attacking options, a position which utilises his height, physical strength, and heading ability in attempts to either score goals or create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates. He had also initially played as a forward in his youth, due to his speed, technique, and height, before being shifted further back as he grew physically with age.