It has been said that the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1. According to the BBC, Leicester City Football Club were 5,000 to 1 to win the Barclay’s Premier League this season. Things more likely to occur in the real world than Leicester, known as the Foxes, to become champions? Simon Cowell of American Idol fame becoming the Prime Minister of England (500 to 1) and the USA’s very own Kim Kardashian becoming president (2,000 to 1).
In case you still can’t wrap your head around just how incredible their run has been this season, just look at everyone’s favorite saddest-franchise award winners, the Cleveland Browns, who are listed on Vegas Insider as a reasonable 200 to 1 to win it all this season. Meanwhile Bleacher Report had the Philadelphia 76ers as 306 to 1 to win the championship at the beginning of the NBA season (which in hindsight seems too optimistic). What I’m saying is, this Leicester run was next to impossible. And yet here we are, living in a world where even the casual, generally anti-soccer sports fan has probably heard of the Leicester City Football Club by now. The almost-certain English Premier League champions are the biggest surprise in sports this season, and maybe in the last few decades. So how did the world of the Premier League get so crazy?
Well, first you have to start with the players, four of whom were named to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. The list is led by Jamie Richard Vardy, a 29 year old English striker who has scored 22 goals (third most in the Premier League) for the Foxes this season. Vardy, just six years ago, was getting paid about $44.00 a week to play for a team I would be willing to bet few had ever heard of before, Stocksbridge Park Steels F.C. Then you have Riyad Mahrez, a masterful midfielder whose transfer value (a key metric for valuing how different football clubs rank players) has risen from the $583,808.00 the Foxes paid for him to perhaps north of $36,510,250.00. Mahrez was joined on the list by his midfield partner and workhorse N’Golo Kante and Foxes stout defender Wes Morgan.
Leicester should also probably thank the usual foursome of Premier League-winners, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea. United has now had what can politely be described as a three-year existential crisis since former manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Arsenal has continued to trip over themselves, in a very Arsenal way. City went from looking like they might run away with the trophy at the beginning of the season to having a consistent injury problem and always exhausted from their busy schedule. And Chelsea just decided to implode. In fact, the Foxes were most closely chased by the likely runner-up, Tottenham Hotspur, who have enjoyed their own resurgence of late.
This is not to say the Foxes haven’t earned their place in history. You cannot help but appreciate and admire what Leicester has managed to do this season since they, too, could have stumbled numerous times throughout the long 38 game season. They took the somewhat aged 4-4-2 formation and played an incredibly solid defensive, quick-counterattack style of football. If you watched any of their games, you know they go from defending to scoring in the blink of an eye, a lightning flash of a few passes ending in a Vardy goal. It is a style not unlike what Atlético Madrid have used in recent seasons.
So, instead of stumbling, the Foxes are on the cusp of accomplishing the impossible while being a model of consistency. Leicester started this season as whatever is below underdogs and have risen to the top, led by guys who were likewise under-appreciated and underrated. This is a sports story that will stand the test of time and should be the most talked about accomplishment for many years … or at least until the Browns and Sixers win it all in 2017. Place your bets now.
Photo Credit: Leicester Mercury for the Photo