Leicester City Football Club have completed the greatest cinderella story in world soccer. They played Manchester United on Sunday, drawing 1-1, which means all Leicester needed was Chelsea to either defeat or draw their north London Rivals Tottenham on Monday to secure them the Premier League title for the first time in the club’s history. And that’s exactly what happened. In an emotional, passionate match with several yellow cards being given out, Chelsea came from 2-0 down to draw the game 2-2 and give Leicester City the title. For soccer fans around the world, especially those of the Premier League, Leicester City is showing something that has been lacking in England’s top teams for the past decade: passion, hard work and dedication trump money.
Since 2000, only four teams have won the Premier League: Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. All four of these teams have starting lineups that cost more than 300 million pounds. According to ESPNFC, the branch of ESPN focused on international soccer, the combined total worth of each of these four team’s squads is 1.4 million pounds or 2.05 million US dollars. Leicester City’s starting 11 costs only 55 million pounds or 82 million US dollars. This shows that Leicester City is a significantly smaller team, yet they are currently winning the Premier League. Why is a significantly smaller team out-performing bigger clubs in one of the most competitive leagues in the world? Well, it’s more than just the passion, hard work and dedication the team put in this past season. To understand Leicester City’s success, you have to look at the club’s history over the past two years.
In 2014, Leicester City was playing in The Championship, England’s second division. They won the league that year and got promoted to the Premier League. Going into the 2014/2015 Premier League season, it was predicted that Leicester was going to be one of the three teams to go down to The Championship. As the season progressed, Leicester found themselves at the bottom of the table at Christmas, with only ten points from their opening 17 games. According to ITV news, only three teams in Premier League history have escaped relegation after being in the bottom three during Christmas. They then went on to pull off one of the greatest relegation escapes in Premier League history and stayed in 14th place.
At the end of the 2014/2015 season, the club controversially sacked their manager, Nigel Pearson. The club then brought in Italian manager Claudio Ranieri, and both the city of Leicester and the media were skeptical about the change. Ranieri’s last two managerial tenures promoted AS Monaco to the top division of France in his first season, and then qualified for the Champion’s League in the following season by granting them a second place finish. Most criticism came when Ranieri was sacked after 4 months as the manager of the Greek national team. Greece failed to qualify for the Euro 2016 after they had only received six points out of 11 games and finished dead last in their qualifying group. So not surprisingly, when Ranieri was announced as the newly appointed Leicester Manager, there was a lot of doubt.
What has Ranieri done with Leicester that’s so different from his other managerial tenures? First, he took a small team and perfected the chemistry between players. Smaller teams tend to have more dedication when playing in top flights because, unlike big clubs who have huge standards to fulfill every year, smaller teams usually play for the fans rather than the silverware. But through building this team’s chemistry, Ranieri also brought out the best in players, such as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Both of these players have been essential for Leicester City’s great run of form this season. With Vardy scoring goals left and right and Mahrez assisting every other goal, both of these players have pretty remarkable stories.
Vardy was playing non-professional soccer for Fleetwood town just six years ago, making only 50 pounds a game. Now, he’s broken Manchester United legend Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record, scoring 12 consecutive goals in 12 consecutive games. He’s also earned a call up to the England national team, and tearing defences apart on the national level, as well as the club level. Riyad Mahrez on the other hand was playing for Le Havre in France’s second division just two years ago, and now he’s the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) player of the year.
Because of their contributions, as well as the team’s chemistry, dedication and hard work, Leicester City Football club has shown the soccer world that money doesn’t mean success.
Lucas Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org