The last 12 months for Leicester City have been like something plucked straight out of every sports-themed Hollywood blockbuster ever made – the weakest team, tipped for anything but success, lift the top prize as the end credits begin to roll, having snatched it out of the hands of their big, bad and, most often, rich rivals.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some Hollywood producer is putting his best writers on the job as we speak, as The Foxes have pulled off something which could well be remembered as the biggest shock in sporting history.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, Monday night saw Chelsea pull two goals back to earn a 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The final whistle saw The Blues’ fans erupt into applause, not because they had held on to their crown, but because they had ended Tottenham’s chances of taking it. Chelsea’s delight was shared by football fans around the world, as it meant that underdogs Leicester City has won the Premier League title.
As 5000/1 outsiders, only a handful of people around the world had taken a punt on The Foxes winning the title, and they now find themselves with a few extra zeros at the end of their bank balance.
Having confirmed their Premier League survive thanks to a last-gasp fightback last season, Leicester City were tipped for another fight at the bottom of the table, with relegation the most likely outcome. The confirmation that Claudio Ranieri, who had recently become the worst manager of the Greece national team in history, would be taking the reigns ahead of the campaign didn’t seem likely to increase their chances.
Yet, after a phenomenal season in which the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté excelled, the club finished up at the opposite end of the table. It is the rags to riches stories of these players that make their title victory so phenomenal – Vardy, Mahrez and Kanté, who have all made their way up from the lower reaches of the game, all looked unlikely to make it to the top of the sport early on in their careers, yet here they are with some of the world’s biggest clubs now chasing their signatures.
Given the scale of the Premier League and the amount of money invested at the top end of the table, it is almost impossible to find a greater story in the football history books, if not in the entirety of sporting history. Greece beating France and Portugal to claim the Euro 2004 trophy, perhaps. Or Buster Douglas inflicting Mike Tyson’s first ever career defeat back in 1990.
Yet, Leicester’s title victory is so much more than 90 minutes of backs to the wall defending, or 10 rounds with a sloppy opponent. Despite fans and pundits alike continuing to brush it off as a spot of luck or a good spell of form that would eventually come crashing down, The Foxes have proven their doubters wrong. A fantastic system and a close-knit squad, coupled with plenty of grit, determination and belief – Leicester City’s phenomenal season has been much more than a bit of luck. It is the ultimate David vs Goliath story, and one that will be retold for years to come.