In undoubtedly the greatest triumph in the history of the English Premier League, little known Leicester City Football Club won the 2015/2016 Premier League season. The Foxes won the title with two games to spare on Monday night courtesy of the 2-2 draw played between last season’s champions, Chelsea and this season’s relentless runners-up Tottenham Hotspur.
It was unscripted. Highly improbable. Nobody gave them a fighting chance at the beginning of the season. And rightly too. They weren’t even remotely considered dark horses who could somehow spring a surprise. They were far flung outsiders. How does a team who only escaped relegation by a hair’s breath about a year ago turn around to become champions the following season? A lowly football club whose players were largely unknown before now. Virtually anonymous lads who were vastly inferior to many million pounds rated elite players of the English Premier League.
Players who were hitherto unworthy to lace the boots of the Premier League celebrities in the mold of Wayne Rooney who earns £300,000 per week, Yaya Toure- a four time African footballer of the year, Mesut Ozil whom everyone agrees has the natural knack for creating spectacular assists and Eden Hazard, whose exploits last season contributed in no small measure to Chelsea being crowned as champions. Leicester has no players with the pedigree or accomplishments of these guys yet pulled a stunner before our very eyes week after week by leveraging on team work and keeping focused throughout a most remarkable campaign.
At the beginning of what turned out to be an unpredictable season, pundits tipped Manchester City or Chelsea to win the title. No one considered Leicester City worthy enough to even make first ten on the league table. In fact, they were condemned to another relegation dog-fight by many bookmakers at the start of the season. Not sports betters, not football commentators and analysts, and not even armchair critics gave them a chance. No soothsayer could have risked predicting this outcome that has defied logic. No psychic would have gambled with their integrity by forecasting that 2013/2014 winners of the Championship would be crowned champions of the top flight barely two years later.
Right now it feels like the eighth wonder of the world. Leicester City – a team whose starting eleven cost less than what was spent by Manchester City on the purchase of Raheem Sterling from Liverpool last season. The new champions not only lacked the level of experience required to win the title but also the financial muscle of the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United who have been traditional winners of the top-flight title in the last 21 years.
I toyed with the idea of titling this piece “Leicester City: Banning Money To Hades” because that is exactly what the Foxes have done. They have banished all the talk about big money clubs being the only ones who have the capacity to compete for and win titles. They have demystified and broken into the league of the elites in the most unconventional way possible. They have left the overpaid big boys and their managers scratching their heads and wondering what hit them.
What will a man like Arsene Wenger who has always been quick to suggest that he has not won the English Premier League title for the past 12 years because Arsenal have not been able to keep up with the spending of other big clubs in the league offer as an excuse now? What excuse will Louis Van Gaal have if he fails to qualify a club like Manchester United (a highly likely possibility) for the UEFA Champions League after spending over £250m on the purchase of players since he took up the job of United’s manager? Same goes for clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
In all there’s a deluge of lessons to be learnt from Leicester’s fairy tale end to the season. First off, the victory of the 132-year old club has shown that anyone can achieve anything they dare to dream of as long as we are willing to work towards it. Make no mistake about it, the Foxes’ success is no fluke and could not have come easy by any stretch of the imagination. It could only have been the result of of good leadership, hard work, perseverance and the tenacity of purpose of a team who chose to believe in their ability.
Secondly, the way and manner of Leicester’s astonishing achievement as a team and even down to individual players such as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’golo Kante also teaches about the danger in underrating anyone. That a person or group doesn’t quite fit into our image of success does not translate to the fact that things would always go the way we see them.
The Foxes have also made an emphatic statement about money not being the most important factor in the achievement of success or attainment of glory. The boys have shattered stereotypes. They have literally pulled a rabbit out of a hat. They have done what no team has ever done in the history of the Premier League thanks to the sterling leadership of former Chelsea boss, Claudio Ranieri.
And though it remains to be seen if they can sustain this level of performance in the League and Champions League, next season, for now they deserve to revel in the euphoria of their historic accomplishment.
Congratulations Leicester City! Deserved champions of the English Premier League.