Leicester: From rejects to champions

Kasper Schmeichel, Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy

Kasper Schmeichel (left) and Jamie Vardy (right) were among the Leicester players marshalled to the Premier League title by Claudio Ranieri (centre)

They were a team of cast-offs and bargain buys written off before the season had started, led by a manager who had been sacked in five of his previous jobs.

Leicester’s incredible Premier League triumph has been built around £400,000 forward Riyad Mahrez and diminutive midfielder N’Golo Kante – both relative unknowns until this season – and a striker in Jamie Vardy who was still playing non-league football four years ago.

But this squad of freebies, basement buys and unknown imports have shocked the football world.

Along the way they won the hearts of neutral fans, became household names and fully fledged international stars.

These are the stories of the 14 key players from a team that cost less than £30m to assemble, but managed to topple the Premier League’s elite.


Leicester’s preferred starting line-up this season cost an estimated £22m, more than 10 times cheaper than Manchester City’s starting XI

Kasper Schmeichel (goalkeeper)


Schmeichel is the son of Manchester United legend Peter, who won five Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Red Devils in the 1990s

Schmeichel started his career as a Manchester City trainee. He made his senior debut on loan at Darlington in 2006 and was also loaned to Bury and Falkirk before making his debut for the Blues.


Schmeichel made his Manchester City debut against West Ham United in August 2007. He played the first seven games of the season, keeping four clean sheets, but was then sent on loan to Cardiff and then Coventry

He played just three games for City in the whole of 2008 and was so far down the pecking order in January 2009 his agent enlisted the help of BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan to get him a move, via our BBC transfer deadline day live text commentary.


This was an entry in the deadline day live text commentary in January 2009


Notts County, led by Sven-Goran Eriksson, broke their transfer record to sign Schmeichel before he joined Leeds. The Dane played for eight clubs before he arrived at the King Power

Schmeichel issued a statement expressing his “great disappointment” when Leeds accepted Leicester’s offer for him in June 2011.

We don’t think he regrets that now…

Danny Simpson (right-back)


Simpson came through the youth teams at Manchester United and made his debut against South African team Kaizer Chiefs on 18 July 2006 in a tour match

Manchester United academy product Simpson was sent out on loan to Belgian side Royal Antwerp and Sunderland, where he won the Championship title in 2007, plus he had spells at Ipswich Town and Blackburn Rovers.


Simpson (third from the right) pictured at Royal Antwerp, with former United players Dong Fangzhuo, Fraizer Campbell and Jonny Evans

He eventually made his Premier League and European debut at Old Trafford before he joined Newcastle United in 2010. He helped the Magpies win promotion back to the Premier League and also won promotion via the play-offs after his move to QPR.

In 2014 he signed for Leicester and is now a Premier League champion. He was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend last May – a conviction he is appealing against.

Christian Fuchs (left-back)


Austria international Fuchs joined Leicester from German club Schalke in June 2015 on a free transfer

The 30-year-old had been persuaded to join the Foxes by then manager Nigel Pearson, who was sacked in June. Fuchs said he was lying on a beach in Antigua when he was told Pearson had been sacked. “I’d spoken to a coach, he’d convinced me to go there, and I will never have one training session with him. It was very weird.”


Point out the Premier League champion – from left, Jamie Vardy, Fuchs and Riyad Mahrez

Fuchs has 46,000 followers on Twitter, whom he entertains with his dressing room insights and games such as Russian egg roulette with team-mate Jamie Vardy.

Wes Morgan (centre-back captain)

The Jamaica international was released by Notts County in 2000 and signed for Dunkirk FC in the Midland Football Alliance, while enrolling on a course to become an accountant, before Nottingham Forest spotted him.


Morgan joined Forest as an apprentice aged 16, and the East Midlands club gave Dunkirk FC two full sets of football kits in exchange

Leicester signed Morgan for about £1m in January 2012. He had already made 379 appearances for Forest, including 123 in League One.


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More kisses from mum for Morgan

Morgan owns a chain of tattoo parlours in Leicester, with former youth team-mate Scott Tynan. Their regular clients include team-mates Jeffrey Schlupp and Fuchs.

But Morgan’s talents do not extend to the actual tattooing. He said: “I tried it once on pigskin. It was a terrible effort. I was just trying to draw a smiley face but it looked more like a letter C.”


Morgan was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the 2015-16 Premier League season

Robert Huth (centre-back)

Claudio Ranieri first brought Huth to England from Germany in 2001, signing him for Chelsea where he won two Premier League titles.

He moved to Middlesbrough for £6m in 2006 but was relegated to the Championship two years later, before joining Stoke where he was voted player of the year.

After a loan spell with Leicester, the defender – capped 19 times by Germany – signed permanently in June 2015 and tweeted: “Now the sexy football show rolls into Leicester!!”


Huth amused his followers with his tweet after scoring a header in Leicester’s 1-0 win against Tottenham in January


Fuchs was happy after Huth scored twice against Manchester City in February

Some of the players who have also won three Premier League titles include Dennis Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Carlos Tevez and Jonny Evans.

N’Golo Kante (midfielder)


Kante, 25, was one of Claudio Ranieri’s first signings as Leicester manager, arriving for £5.6m from French club Caen in August

Kante made his professional debut in the second tier of French football with Boulogne in 2011. Following relegation he impressed in the third tier the following year and was picked up by Caen in 2013. With them he played all 38 games of the season and missed just one match in the following campaign.

Kante was much smaller than the players around him at youth level and struggled to find a team to take him on, arriving at Boulogne thanks to a connection with the president of Suresnes, the amateur club he played for growing up.

He has been praised for his work-rate in midfield, interceptions and tackling – and has been given the nickname ‘The Rash’ by team-mate Danny Drinkwater for his aggressive persistence.


Kante, who made his debut for France in March, was selected in the Premier League Team of the Year and nominated for the PFA Player of the Year

Danny Drinkwater (midfielder)

Drinkwater was another player who started his career at Manchester United, joining the academy as a nine-year-old. He was part of the United Under-18 side that reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2007, but lost to Liverpool on penalties.

Drinkwater left the Altrincham College of Arts in Cheshire with nine GCSEs.


Manchester United’s Under-18s in April 2007. Back row (L-R): Richard Eckersley, James Chester, Danny Welbeck, Ben Amos, Craig Cathcart, Danny Drinkwater, Chris Fagan. Front row (L-R): Corry Evans, Sam Hewson, Febian Brandy, Danny Galbraith

The 26-year-old was loaned out to Huddersfield, Cardiff, Watford, Barnsley, but never made his senior debut for United.

He joined Leicester in 2012, helping them win promotion to the Premier League in 2014 and was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year that season.


Drinkwater made his England debut in March against the Netherlands

Marc Albrighton (winger)


Albrighton signed for Leicester after being released by boyhood club Aston Villa at the end of the 2013-14 season

Albrighton had been with Villa since the age of eight, making his competitive debut in the Uefa Cup game at CSKA Moscow on 26 February 2009.

The winger made his first Premier League appearance on 15 August 2009 against Wigan Athletic, a club he would later be loaned out to in 2013.


Albrighton scored the Premier League’s 20,000th goal at home to Arsenal on 21 December 2011

Albrighton, who joined Leicester in May 2014 after being released by Villa, has represented England at under-20 and under-21 level.

Riyad Mahrez (forward)


Algeria international Mahrez joined Leicester from French second division side Le Havre for £400,000 in January 2014

The slight but talented forward was born in the tough Parisian suburb of Sarcelles and lost his father, Ahmed, to a heart attack at the age of 15.

He first club was AAS Sarcelles before he moved Quimper in 2009, just over 350 miles from Paris.

Mahrez spent his first six months in their second team before gradually making his way through the ranks. He lived with Mathias Pogba, brother of Juventus star Paul Pogba, who described him as too skinny, messy and said he enjoyed a diet of steak and French fries.


Mahrez arrived at Quimper with a toothbrush, toothpaste and football boots

Apparently, as recently as 2010, Mahrez did not know how to take a throw-in properly. And, like his Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy, the winger had to overcome concerns about his size.

But he has gone on to become the first African to be named PFA Player of the Year, with 17 goals and 11 assists.

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From a tough Paris suburb to Premier League star

Shinji Okazaki (forward)


Japan striker Okazaki joined Leicester in the summer of 2015 from Bundesliga club Mainz

During a four-year spell in Germany he became the leading Japanese goalscorer in the league’s history, adding 27 with Mainz to 10 for Stuttgart.


The 30-year-old began his career with Shimizu S-Pulse, and has made 100 appearances for Japan, scoring 48 goals

He puts his goalscoring form down to discovering fish and chips while at Leicester.

“I like fish and chips!” Okazaki said. “I have them sometimes, maybe once every two weeks, then I am happy. Now when I have scored I want some fish and chips. It is better than pizza.”

Jamie Vardy (Forward)


After being released by Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 16, Vardy began his senior career with non-league side Stocksbridge Park Steels

After being arrested for assault, Vardy had to wear an ankle tag when he was with Stocksbridge Park Steels. He was not allowed to be out outdoors after 6pm, and at away matches could only play one hour to get back in time. He was 20 and earning £30 a week at the time.


Vardy moved to Halifax in 2010 for £15,000 and then Fleetwood in 2011 for £250,000

At Fleetwood he scored 31 goals as the team were promoted to the Football League for the first time.

He joined Leicester in 2012 for a record fee for a non-league player of £1m (rising to £1.5m) after impressing Pearson and also former West Brom and current England manager Roy Hodgson.


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Jamie Vardy’s humble beginnings

The 2015-16 season started on a low point for Vardy as he was fined by the club after claims he made a racial slur in a casino.

In November became the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League matches and signed a new three-year deal in February.


Vardy made his England debut in June, scored his first international goal against Germany in March and was later named in the PFA Team of the Year


Vardy has a stand named after himself at Stocksbridge

Jeffrey Schlupp (left-back)


Ghana international Jeffrey Schlupp was born in Hamburg but went to school in Milton Keynes and is a product of Leicester’s academy

When he was in Year 10 at Oakgrove School, his designs for a new garden on the grounds were made into reality. It wasn’t all his own work though – Max Crowcombe, the Oxford United goalkeeper, also contributed.

Schlupp spent three weeks on trial at Manchester United in 2013.

Leonardo Ulloa (Forward)


Ulloa left his native Argentina in 2008 for Spain, where he had spells at Castellon and Almeria before joining Brighton for around £2m in 2013

The 29-year-old earned a then club-record £8m move to Leicester in 2014 after scoring 26 goals in 58 appearances for Brighton in the Championship.

He has never played international football and turned down the chance to represent Chile, for whom he is eligible through his grandparents.

Andy King (midfielder)


Wales international King came through Leicester’s academy and has made more than 300 appearances for the club on their way from 2009 League One winners to Premier League champions

He is the all-time highest-scoring midfielder in the club’s 132-year history.

When the Foxes won the Championship in 2014, he tweeted: “So the best weekend of my life comes to a close… what a few days… we finally did it!!”

How is he feeling now?

Claudio Ranieri (manager)


Ranieri, a defender, was at Roma for two seasons, but played most of his football for Catanzaro in Calabria in southern Italy


After success with Fiorentina he moved to Spain and won trophies with Valencia before taking over at Atletico Madrid, where he later resigned

The 64-year-old took over at Chelsea in 2000, bringing in players such as club legend Frank Lampard.

He was manager when Chelsea were taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2003, and spent £120m on players. He was nicknamed ‘The Tinkerman’ for over-rotating his squad.

Ranieri was sacked in 2004 and replaced by Jose Mourinho.


Ranieri has managed all over Europe in the past decade with limited success, his last saw him sacked by Greece after they failed to qualify for Euro 2016

Ranieri has become a cult hero at Leicester with his man-management, giving players pizza and his unique take on things, as he led the team to the most unexpected league title in history.


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Ranieri wants to ‘pay players with pizza’

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