Sports editors’ comment: Leicester City pull off football’s greatest shock
Leicester City have temporarily restored the soul of professional football in this county.
The Foxes have made fans of us all, how could you not fall in love with this club which have defied all the odds, literally 5000-1, to claim the Barclays Premier League title for the first time in their 132 year history. Going from relegation favourites 14 months ago to champions.
Last night Tottenham Hotspurs let a 2-0 lead slip against Chelsea to draw 2-2, meaning it was mathematically impossible for Leicester’s closest rivals to catch them.
Que celebrations in striker Jamie Vardy’s Melton house, where the full squad had assembled, and on the streets outside his gates, at the King Power Stadium and in the pubs and streets of Leicester.
What Leicester and manager Claudio Ranieri have done is nothing short of a miracle in sporting terms. It’s arguably the greatest upset in the history of football if not all sport.
Leicester’s title season ranks up there with the Ali v Fraser’s Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, Russia v USA’s 1980 Miracle on Ice and Japan beating South Africa in the Rugby World Cup in the autumn.
Liverpool’s comeback against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final was one of the all time shocks but that was a one off game. This is better. This was harder.
Greece winning the European Championships in 2004 was a shock to the football establishment but what makes this story so much better is the prolonged effort it took and the panache which they have done it in.
It’s a fairytale come true - a true battle of David vs Goliath - only in this fight there were half a dozen giants to fight against home and away.
Leicester’s regular starting side cost just £21 million in total to assemble. This summer Chelsea spent that much alone on signing Pedro from Barcelona, Liverpool parted company with £28 million for Brazilian international Roberto Firmino and then £32.5 million for Christian Benteke who has spent most of the season on the bench.
Man City raised the stakes by spending £49 million on Raheem Sterling and £55 million on Kevin De Bruyne as rivals Manchester United parted nearly £50 million for teenager Anthony Martial.
The league spent an estimated billion pounds on players this season. And yet Leicester have finished champions with two games to spare getting by on a shoestring.
City have had to fight off 36 different attempts to knock them off their perch, and they have survived nearly them all. Showing the spirit and resolve of champions to come back from losing positions time and time again, just like they did against Manchester United on Sunday at the Theatre of Dreams when they drew 1-1 after going a goal behind.
Club captain Wes Morgan, signed for £1 million from Nottingham Forest in 2012, was the man to head them level at the weekend, another telling effort from the Jamaican captain who could of never dreamed that one day he would be lifting the Premier League trophy, particularly at the age of 32, but on Saturday that’s exactly what is going to happen.
The defender, alongside towering German Robert Huth, has been stunningly impressive this season as part of the best drilled defence in the league, with goalkeeper Casper Schmeichel earning an impressive 15 clean sheets this season.
The defenders are both throw backs to no nonsense, old school centre backs who get the job done. And haven’t they just?
The Foxes evolution under Ranieri from free flowing goal scorers, soaking up pressure and hitting on the break at the start of the season, to defensive stalwarts has been one of the most impressive elements of their winning campaign and the Italian manager should receive a lot of the praise.
This team will be remembered forever. They are literally making a Hollywood movie about the rags to riches rise of striker Jamie Vardy who went from playing non-league football for Fleetwood to winning the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award this season after scoring 22 league goals at the spearhead of the Foxes attack. Not bad for just a £1 million signing.
It’s easy to forget the striker also beat the league’s record for scoring in consecutive games earlier this season, striking in 12 straight matches to go past Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy in the record books.
There might even be a sequel in the making as well as Vardy looks set to start up front for England in the Euros this summer having scored on his full debut earlier this season against Germany.
Magical midfielder Riyad Mahrez, bought for just £350,000 from French club Le Havre in 2014,w as crowned the PFA Player of the Year last month and has provided a touch of class for the Foxes all season, scoring 17 goals and 11 assists.
In my opinion the best of the lot is defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman was signed for just £5.6 million and has been unrivalled in his break up play this season.
There is a chant that the City fans sing which sums up the midfielder’s stunning work rate perfectly: “Seventy percent of the earth is covered by sea the rest is covered by N’Golo Kante.”
He is simply everywhere on a football pitch and should be at the Euros as well this summer.
While you can pick out individuals this success, perhaps more than any other, has been a team effort. It’s looked at times this season like they have just wanted it more, believed in what they are doing more.
Leicester City have given hope to the underdogs and minnows around the world and their achievement should be celebrated and cherished for what it is. Everyone who has seen them play this season has witnessed a slice of history which few believed was possible in the professional era.
Well done Leicester, and thank you for making believers out of all of us again.