Leicester City Crowned English Premier League Champions
By Alex Baker
On Monday, following Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea, Leicester City Football Club officially became English top-flight champions for the first time in the club’s 132-year history. It’s a far cry from 12 months ago, when they were nearly relegated to English football’s second division.
Having began the season as favorites to be relegated and at 5,000 to 1 odds to win the title, it’s no exaggeration to say that Leicester’s title win is the greatest underdog triumph in the history of club football and quite possibly, of team sports in general.
The team itself, a collection of castoffs and bargain bin buys from lower division English club football, has become household names over the course of the season. Forward Riyad Mahrez is PFA Player of the Year. Striker Jamie Vardy will represent England at the Euros this summer. Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante have all basked in the glow of an adoring English and international media.
However, none more so than the true architect of the Leicester City fairytale, manager Claudio Ranieri.
Despite a managerial pedigree that includes stints at Juventus, Roma, Chelsea, Monaco, Napoli, Internazionale and the Greek national team, title success was something that had always managed to evade the gentle-mannered manager from Rome.
Known as the “Tinker-man,” Ranieri was typically seen as a borderline panic appointment; someone you brought in when no one else was available. Sure, he could fix a few leaks, right the ship and lay the groundwork for the next manager’s success, but little more.
But now, after a 30-year career in which he’d won little more than a few second division titles and a couple of domestic cups in Spain and Italy, Ranieri has led Leicester to the most coveted prize in club football; the English Premier League title.
While he was fortunate to have a number of players in his squad who quite literally hit the form of their lives this season, Ranieri must be credited for the masterful way he steered the Foxes to the title.
There was no talk of winning the league, or even of making it into the Champions League. When asked, Ranieri would merely smile somewhat slyly and maintain that the goal was to avoid relegation and win the next match. The slightly eccentric Italian managed to keep the pressure of title talk at arms length, until it was simply too late for anyone to stop them.
In the international football world, we’re constantly reminded that money buys victories and that only a few teams can win. Ranieri and Leicester have shown us that’s not always the case.
Next season the team is likely to be parted out, the players lured by the money and prestige of bigger clubs.
English football’s traditional powerhouses; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal, will rebuild over the summer and come storming back next season. It may be quite sometime before we see anything like Leicester City again, if ever. So for now, let’s sit back and enjoy the moment and give due credit to Ranieri and his band of underdog heroes. They’ve certainly earned it.
(Photos courtesy of ISI and James Marsh)