As Tottenham Hotspur failed to get the win they needed against Chelsea on May. 2 to keep the Premier League season alive, the soccer world cheered in unison. It meant underdogs Leicester City were champions for the first time in their 132-year history after being 5000-1 shots at the beginning of the season. Here’s why it’s the greatest soccer story ever.
The odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime are 3000-1, you’ll get 2000-1 for finding Elvis Presley alive and well, and it’s 250-1 if you catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster. Just to put this into context, Leicester City winning the Premier League over Arsenal or Manchester City was less likely than those absurdities, which makes this the greatest soccer story of all time.
Let’s cast our minds back to the climax of the 2014-2015 season. Leicester were rock bottom of the 20-team Premier League, staring relegation from the top tier in the face. They had only just been promoted from the second tier of English soccer, however their season was a struggle and they seemed to lack the quality to challenge at the top level. However, a 2-1 win over West Ham on Apr. 4, 2015 kick started a remarkable turn-around in fortunes, they won 6 of their last 8 games and managed to stave off relegation for at least one season.
Then came the summer of turmoil. Nigel Pearson, the coach who had masterminded their miraculous survival, was fired after falling out with club owners. In came Claudio Ranieri, a figure ridiculed for his team selection at Chelsea, which saw him take a bullet in 2004. He took on jobs with teams in Spain, Italy and France, but his reputation was tarnished after he was fired as Greece national team manager in 2014 following a 1-0 defeat to lowly Faroe Islands.
So, before the 2015-2016 season had even begun, Leicester were already favorites for the drop. They added journeyman players in the transfer market like Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, while unknown talents N’Golo Kanté and Shinji Okazaki were brought in for small fees in today’s transfer market. It wasn’t spectacular, and it didn’t add much excitement for the season ahead. Clearly they were just happy to be there.
But Leicester flew out the traps from the offset and were unbeaten in their first 7 games. Their modest manager Claudio refused to get carried away, insisting his team were just trying to get as many points on the table to stay in the Premier League. It was that mindset that saw them go about their season in the most professional way. They took each game as it came, didn’t get carried away and they performed like a team, not a group of players hungry for individual success.
However, all teams do have their talisman. Leicester’s is Jamie Vardy, who just a few years before his meteoric rise, was playing non-league soccer while holding down a part-time job as a technician making medical splints. From zero to hero, Jamie adapted to his first full-season in the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring in a record 11 consecutive games. His own personal story is so impressive, Hollywood movie bosses are turning his life into a film.
His talents were supplemented by Riyad Mahrez, a $600,000 signing that not even the most knowledgeable soccer experts knew of, but is now the most sought-after player in English soccer. The Algerian’s first full season in the Premier League saw him voted PFA Player of the Year. Vital goals in games against Chelsea and Manchester City showed his quality against the so-called big teams, and he took on the role of playmaker, assisting his teammates with glee throughout the year.
Finally, to hammer home the point, British soccer in the modern era has been traditionally dominated by teams with the biggest financial clout. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea’s huge budgets in the past has meant they can buy the best players from rival teams, pay them the biggest wages, and they’ve all inevitably won championships by spending large sums of money. Manchester City has a total squad cost of $418.8 million, Arsenal’s $251.8 million, while Tottenham has spent $161.1 million over the years. Leicester put together their Premier League-winning team for just $54.4m. Let that just sink in for a minute.
HollywoodLifers, do you think this is the greatest soccer story off all-time? Do you think we will ever see a repeat of the Leicester fairytale? Tell us what you think below!