On 17th April 2015, an English club in English Premier League was at the bottom of the ladder. It had collected 18 points from 29 games and was destined to go out of the packing order. Fortunes turned. The club collected 22 points from possible 27. It escaped relegation and finished at a credible 14th position. Next year, they led from the pole to the chequered flag. The name of the club was Leicester City.
Many hailed their maiden EPL success as the miracle of the century. Some said that was the blessing of the smiling Buddha, due to their Thai owner. But matter ran deep. Leicester City paid $80 million in transfer fees for its entire squad. Compare this to the spending of Manchester City that paid $84 million of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne alone that season. Some may not believe that cost of Mehraz (EPL player of the year who scored 14 goals and made 10 assists) was just $600000!!
Putting the cost aspect aside, the profile of players and coaches turned the heroic story into a fairy tale. It was a battalion of losers and rejects.
Coach Claudio Renieri was coaching for 3 decades and never lifted a cup. He was nicknamed ‘Tinkerman’ due to this shortcoming. James Verdy (scored in 11 consecutive matches, top scorer for Leicester) had once played for 30 pounds per match in a local league. Japanese midfielder Okazaki was never considered fit for EPL due to his diminutive figure. Drinkwater wanted to be like Paul Scholes. Sadly, Manchester United rejected him. The retirement of Cambiasso opened things for him and rest is history. Kasper Schmeichel, son of Legendary Peter Schmeichel, started his career in Man city. He couldn’t cut. Reliable Kasper passed his time in the second division before coming to Leicester last year. Riyad Mehrez, the Algerian origin teen, was rejected by Ligue 1.
It was their victory against Manchester City in February (3-1) when squad started to believe in their abilities. They achieved success despite few hiccups and against all the odds of football pundits around the world.
History repeats itself. There are a few striking similarities elsewhere. In 1977-78 seasons, Nottingham Forest crowned English champions, upsetting unconquerable Liverpool. Liverpool had won the previous two and later the next two editions. Nottingham Forest didn’t stop there. Brian Clough’s side won the European Cup in 78-79 and 79-80. Bab Catchford was their Verdy. Similar to Leicester City, they were promoted to top division a season before!
Cagliari FC was a club of Serie C in the 60s. By dedicated efforts, the Sardinians made a maiden appearance in Serie A in 1964. Inter, Milan, Juve, and Fiorentina were the force of Italy. Under legendary Luigi Riva, their top scorer, Rossoblu finished as runner up in 68-69 and won the Scudetto in 69-70.
Deportivo La Coruna was a club that divided its time into both divisions the previous century. In 1999-2000 seasons, the Galicians made an astonishing purchase like Dutch Roy Mckay from Tenerife and Cesar Martin from Oviedo. Djalminiya of BRA emerged as their main armor and club won La Liga for the first and only time that season. Like Leicester City, they earned the right to play in the Champions League for the first time as well.
Lazio’s success in 99-00, A S Roma in 00-01, Wolfsburg in 07-08 can be read in the same way in winning their domestic leagues. Sadly, Nottingham Forest collapsed after touching heaven in a few seasons. Cagliari also met the same bizarre fate. Deportivo went for a negative spiral. They are playing in the second division for two seasons. Foxes learned a lesson and are still hunting.
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