Author: Robert Dewis
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City; these are the giants of English football. But in the quarter-finals of the European Champions League next month Atletico Madrid will face Leicester City, a team which had never played in Europe´s elite competition until this year. In fact, in 2008, they were playing in the English third division, the lowest point in their 133 year history. Then after climbing back to the Premier League in 2014, they went on to be champions, despite having 5000-1 odds* at the start of the season. Recently they wrote another chapter to the fairytale* by beating Sevilla in the last- 16 of the Champions League. But what is the story behind these unlikely heroes from the East Midlands of England?
Let´s go back to March 2015. With only nine games to go until the end of the season, Leicester were at the bottom of the English Premier League with only 19 points; nobody thought they had any chance of surviving. However the team did something remarkable and won seven of the last nine matches and incredibly finished 14th in the league. It wasn´t all good news though. It had been a difficult year for Leicester with a number of media problems for their manager Nigel Pearson, and despite the positive end to the season, in June he was sacked* by the club.
Before the start of the 2015-2016 season, the club appointed Claudio Ranieri as their new manager. The Italian was known as a likeable* character in England, having previously managed Chelsea, but had never won a major league title during his career. Nobody thought he would be able to change things so greatly at Leicester. In fact, at the start of the season, betting companies valued their chance of winning as 5000-1.
Those odds soon started to reduce. The players and the manager seemed to work well together instantly. Jamie Vardy, their main striker*, started the season incredibly, scoring 13 goals in a record breaking 11 consecutive games from August to November. By Christmas, Leicester were top of the premier league table, an achievement which is more remarkable when you realise exactly one year previous they were bottom of the league. Every week, football fans across England were saying “they can´t continue like this, the dream is going to end” etc. But every week they continued to win and on 2nd May 2015, the dream came true: Leicester City became Premier League Champions.
Vardy may have been their main goal scorer, but there were many other players that deserve just as much credit for the title winning season. In goal, there was Kasper Schmeichel, the son of the Manchester United legend, Peter. In defence, the tough-tackling captain Wes Morgan; in midfield, the hard-working duo of N´Golo Kante , and Danny Drinkwater, who was rejected by Manchester United as a youth player; in attack Riyad Mahrez, who scored and created many goals. However individual players weren´t the main reason for their success. In a press conference, Ranieri said “Why can´t we run, run, run? We are like Forrest Gump” and this summed up their main strengths: hard work and a great team spirit.
After their crazy season last year, things have been a bit more normal at their home, the King Power Stadium. In the summer they lost one of their star players, N´Golo Kante, to Chelsea and their performances have been inconsistent. They had been at the bottom half of the league all year, and sadly, as a result, Ranieri lost his job. However, new boss Craig Shakespeare seems to have given the players motivation again. The recent win against Sevilla should remind Diego Simeone and co at Atletico how dangerous the underdog* can be.
Odds: probably, used in betting and gambling
Fairytale: a fantasy story
To be sacked: to lose your job
Likeable: easy to like
Striker: the main attacking player in a team
Underdog: a competitor thought to have no chance of winning