Leicester City – Premier League Champions
Cries of “Champions” rang throughout King Power Stadium on Saturday before Leicester’s 3-1 win over Everton. Leicester City FC—a team almost every betting agency, expert, and soccer fan alike predicted would be relegated this season—were crowned Premier League champions before kickoff. After second place Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea FC on May 2, Leicester are mathematically guaranteed to win the title for the first time in their history.
The former relegation candidates have been beating the best of teams this season. They play an attractive, counterattacking style of soccer defined by quick passing and intelligent runs. Their quick, dynamic attack builds out of their solid defense that proved impenetrable to some of the best teams in England.
The hard work ethic of the Leicester City players came to inspire soccer fans around the world. The players sprinted constantly throughout matches, often running the opposition into complete exhaustion in order to win games. Their tireless efforts exemplify the desire the players have to win games and prove their place among the best.
Many players needed to demonstrate their worth to the English fans. The team was largely led by winger Riyad Mahrez and talisman Jamie Vardy, two players critical to the team’s success this season. Mahrez was struggling to make his stamp on the game in recent years, and was on the verge of becoming another overlooked player in the French second division. Vardy was a former factory worker and was playing in the 5th tier of English soccer until 2012, in matches that weren’t even televised.
But this season, both players have shown how valuable they are to any team, especially to Leicester. Mahrez scored 17 goals and had 11 assists this season and won the renowned Professional Footballer Association’s Player of the Year Award. Vardy additionally scored an astounding 24 goals and won the unique Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year Award. Both players deserve the honors they have received and will continue to be irreplaceable for their team.
The magnitude of Leicester’s achievement can’t be overstated. To put their success into perspective, here are some astounding facts that prove how unlikely and remarkable this season has been for the team.
- Leicester City is the first team in 39 seasons to win the Premier League for the first time, ending the cycle of the biggest and richest clubs continually winning the League.
- Leicester only took 36 games to win the title, with 2 games still to play in the season.
- The team was only promoted to the Premier League last year (the 2014-2015 season). They won one of the most prestigious and difficult competitions in all of sports in only their second year competing for it.
- In the 2014-2015 season, Leicester were almost relegated back to the Championship and spent 140 days in last place of the Premier League table. They miraculously finished 14th place after a late-season push.
- The entire squad costs just $80 million to put together (buying players from other teams), compared to second place Tottenham’s $236 million cost, third place Arsenal’s $370 million cost and fourth place Manchester City’s $615 million cost.
- In terms of wages paid to players, Leicester is also one of the least expensive in the League; it’s wage bill is $69 million, very little compared to Tottenham’s $143 million.
- The team also ranked 17th out of 20 Premier League teams in terms of spending on players this season.
- Leicester City had 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier League this season and were projected to finish in 16th place by bookies, with many of their own fans thinking they would likely be relegated. ESPN projected Leicester to come in last place before the season began.
- The team underwent a managerial change this season after Claudio Ranieri was appointed, so many thought that it would take the team time to get used to his style of play and, as a result, their initial results would suffer (which they clearly did not).
- Leicester had to continue to play hard over all 36 games—the continuous effort makes their achievement even more impressive.
- They won the title with 2 games still to play.
The underdog story of Leicester gives me and all other soccer fans hope for a bright future. This is the biggest underdog success story in the history of soccer, and likely of sports as a whole, and it wholey opposes the ever growing downward spiral of monetary control that the soccer is falling into. This team is one of the poorest in the League, has one of the cheapest squads in the league, and pays its players some of the lowest wages in the League. And yet, Leicester was able to win the title convincingly and excite soccer fans of every team in the process.
Leicester has proven the idea of money’s unrelenting grasp on the game inaccurate. Finances and investments by companies undoubtedly play an extremely large role in the success of many teams. Too much of the game is defined by how much money a team has or what rich owner invests in which team. But after this season, smaller teams and fans around the world have hope for a successful, possibly euphoric, future like what Leicester City achieved this season.
Soccer isn’t about money or marketing deals or jersey sales—it’s about the elation you feel when your team wins, about the excitement you feel when you score a goal, about the idea that any team can beat any other team. It’s about the beautiful game, the people’s game, the game we all share. And because of their extraordinary success and the lack of finances supporting their championship, Leicester City might have just saved soccer from its otherwise dangerous destiny.