Our fifth story in the underdog series features Leicester City FC, a relatively unknown club in England, that achieved the impossible by winning the Premier League for the 2015-16 season. In a money-dominated league, Leicester's incredible triumph has taught lessons that will last for generations.
For a club that was staring at relegation in March 2015, Leicester's prime motto for 2015-16 was--“Survival”. But some hopeless fan in a remote area of United Kingdom placed a bet that his team would win the Premier League. The odds—5000:1. “Are you crazy, mate?” That's how anyone would react to it
And there were others who scoffed when the club signed up Italian manager Claudio Ranieri as their manager in July 2015. Even former Leicester player Gary Lineker reacted to this by tweeting “Claudio Ranieri? Really?”. The Italian was considered to be too soft and friendly to his players. He was sacked as Greece national team's manager just four months into the job in 2014, while his previous track record at Italian club Roma left them losing the League and Cup titles on the last step.
Worst of all, there were his former employers—Chelsea who were the defending champions, who sacked Ranieri in 2004 as Chelsea's manager after deeming him “unfit to win trophies”. Now, there was the other man at the helm of Chelsea—Jose Mourinho—who always relished every chance to bully Ranieri when his Inter Milan pipped Ranieri's Roma for the titles in Italy.
Despite having to face all his devils of the past, the friendly, warm smile on Ranieri's face remained. But beneath that optimistic smile was a steely determination that we got to see last year. Their entire team's value was around £23.1 million, which is nearly equivalent to the transfer fee Chelsea spent on a single purchase of Eden Hazard. But he had a bunch of honest, hard-working players who believed every little bit in what their coach told them.
In his own words, Ranieri tells about his players, “Perhaps you have heard their names now. Players who were considered too small or too slow for other big clubs.”
When the bunch lost to 5-2 to the mighty Arsenal in September 2015, Leicester City fell straight from second in the table to eighth. Nobody ever believed that by the time of New Year, The Foxes would be second in the table.
Jamie Vardy, the striker who was thinking of quitting professional football two years ago, broke the record and scored in 11 consecutive league games. N'golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater, the midfield pair who were relatively unknown names by then, were topping the Premier League charts for the number of tackles they won. Riyad Mahrez, the name that should have belonged in the fourth division in France, was now a nightmare for top defences with his pace and dribbling skills.
The team, however, had some difficulty in keeping
But the detractors were still not convinced. They were still of the opinion that Leicester City
After losing to Arsenal for the second time in the season in February, Leicester won five of their next six games with a slender scoreline of 1-0, and during this time, Jamie Vardy scored just once while his other teammates contributed to six of the seven goals they scored.
Ranieri was still finding ways to escape the title talk and spare his players from the pressure of winning the title. “We’ve done our job – to save the team. Now it’s to enjoy the matches, make our fans proud – then we can do something more. But not the nightmare, the obsession, to make something different. No. Continue, let’s play,” he told the media in
By April, it was clear--the unthinkable had happened. But even with the incredible result
And things came full circle when Leicester
Leicester City's win of 2015-16 has taught us so many lessons. It showed that it was possible for a club to be successful despite not having the financial backing of billionaire tycoons or big American companies. It showed that nice guys like Claudio Ranieri can finish first. It gave inspiration to many of those underdogs all around the world. Players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N'golo Kante made us believe that no matter how many rejections we face, how many obstacles we encounter in our life, we can still succeed when we believe in ourselves. It might not be possible once again for Leicester City to repeat this feat again, with the vultures of big clubs swooping in for their star players and the analytical brains across the league finding ways to break their system. But it showed that fairy tales are, indeed, real.