“I don’t think it’s a miracle,” said Real Madrid manager and France footballing legend Zinedine Zidane. “They had a fantastic season”. Indeed, Zizou may be on his own, because when a club like Leicester, who were famously 5,000/1 to win the Premier League, actually go ahead and do just that, many would believe that indeed a miracle of football has occurred.
Miracle is a word being used a lot. Claudio Ranieri used it himself to describe the Foxes following their “great escape” last season, when former boss Nigel Pearson led the side to win seven of their last nine matches to fight their way from the bottom of the table up to 14th place. A year later, would he – or indeed anyone – have expected this?
Of course Zidane is right. They did have a fantastic season. Claudio Ranieri has done fantastic. No, actually he had done phenomenally. In fact, I’m not sure if there’s a word yet invented to describe just how well he has done.
Nine months after Gary Lineker famously tweeted ‘Claudio Ranieri? Really?’ following the Italian’s appointment, there are now calls for a statue of the 64-year-old boss at the King Power Stadium. He’ll probably get one too. Think about that.
Claudio Ranieri? Really?
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2015
But it was the drama in how they won that was enjoyable for the neutral. But I think that most football fans wanted to see Leicester City become Premier League champions. No disrespect to Tottenham, they are a marvellous club with an exciting, young squad, but would it have had the same effect had they had won the league this season? Not even remotely.
It’s interesting to note some of Leicester’s statistics. The game is becoming more and more obsessed with stats. Top flight managers have bought players solely because of their stats. Yet, interestingly, the percentages show that Ranieri’s team are in the bottom three for possession (only one club, West Brom, have a lower pass completion rate). Their spirit and determination was utterly admirable. Statistics aside, the only one that matters is the league table. Ranieri got that spot on.
Leicester fans waking up on Tuesday morning, this is not a dream. Repeat, this is not a dream… pic.twitter.com/2tqCHtOoST
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 3, 2016
It’s probably one of the biggest shocks in not only footballing history, but sporting history. And it simply goes shows that, yes, in sport: anything can happen.
Other clubs must look at Claudio Ranieri and Leicester and think, “hang on a second, if they can do that, then why can’t we?”. And it’s great. You don’t need Russian billionaires or a royal family from the Middle East throwing buckets of cash at a club to bring in huge names. Leicester City are the proof.
And good luck to the Foxes in the future. I can’t wait to see them in the Champions League next season. As for Gary Lineker’s underpants? Not so much!
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)