Is this the greatest sports story of all time?
Two seasons ago, they won the Championship and entered the Premier League. Last season they were almost relegated. This season they are Premier League champions. How did a bunch of rejected players and a sacked coach win England’s greatest league?
Leicester City fans can’t believe it, the football world is amazed, and the big Premier League clubs like are in shock. So how were they able to achieve this amazing result? Leicester City won the title for a number of reasons, and their mantra ‘Foxes never give up’ was certainly a true statement. Of course there was more to this team than determination, spirit, and hard work. There was also talent, real talent. While most of the players came from the Championship (the league below the Premier League) they just needed belief and half a chance to prove their true worth. So who were the standout players? We take a look at who made this team work.
First there was Jamie Vardy who was playing non-league football back in 2012 As a a virtual unknown he appeared on the radar when embarked on a record-breaking Premier League scoring run three years later when he scored consecutively in 11 games. His blistering pace led to him scoring 22 goals with 6 assists. This is remarkable considering Leicester picked up the striker for a mere £1m in 2012, which is small change compared to the cost of other league players. His rise to the top is a real underdog story that goes hand in hand with Leicester’s rise to the top. So remarkable is his story that it is about to hit the big screen. British screenwriter and producer Adrian Butchart who previously did two episodes of trilogy ‘Goal’, hopes to turn his story into a Hollywood blockbuster.
Just as important as Vardy was Rihad Mahrez. The 25 year old Algerian cost Leicester a bargain £400,000 in 2014. He provided 11 assists this season, but his 17 goals was exemplary for a midfielder. His pairing with Vardy is a lethal combination and his sensational form this season earned him the coveted PFA Player of the Year award. He beat out team mate Vardy and Tottenham’s Harry Kane for the award.
The manager of Leicester City was also a key participant in winning the title. Relegated to the scrapheap as a manager, his appointment for Leicester bemused most fans and pundits. When Ranieri was appointed, Gary Lineker tweeted: “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” But Ranieri built a solid team with limited funds from a bunch of rejected players. The proof of his management was his team’s results. They regularly beat teams that were 10 times more valuable in monetary terms. In short, he did the impossible.
Schmeichel is the son of Manchester United goal keeper legend Peter, who won five Premier League titles and the Champions League. Kasper cost Leicester a bargain £1.25m back in 2011. His goal keeping skills were crucial and without his services the Foxes would almost certainly have lost more games leading to a different result.
Other crucial players
There were many other players that played their part. Right-back Danny Simpson cost Leicester City £2m back in 2014 and regularly turned out for his team. Left-back Christian Fuchs was an absolute bargain for Leicester. The club picked him up for free in 2015 and at age 30, he was basically on the scrapheap. Center-back Wes Morgan cost to Leicester a mere £1m in 2012. As captain of the team, he helped the Foxes with stern leadership and even scored crucial goals to grind out some difficult wins when they were required. Morgan even made the PFA Team of the Year for the 2015-16 Premier League season. Midfielder N’Golo Kante was one of Claudio Ranieri’s first signings and he proved his worth with a high work-rate in midfield. He cost the club £5.6m in 2015. Midfielder Danny Drinkwater cost £675,000 in 2012 and was an absolute star for the club. His exploits in midfield even earned him a place in the England team with one cap so far. Finally there was substitute striker Leonardo Ulloa who stepped in for Vardy when he was suspended and grabbed a double against Swansea to extend his teams lead for the title. In hindsight, fans didn’t need to worry about Vardy’s suspension as Ulloa was a worthy replacement.
Most of all though, the Foxes played as a team. They were a close knit unit that was able to grind out hard fought wins against the best teams in the Premier League. When they were losing, they weren’t intimidated and often scored important goals near the end of their matches. They played by their mantra: “Foxes never give up”.