Leicester City have won the Premier League title in one of the greatest sporting stories of all time.
Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Monday confirmed a stunning achievement for Claudio Ranieri’s side.
Leicester started the campaign as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title after almost being relegated last season.
But they have lost just three league games in what has been described as a “fairytale” and the “most unlikely triumph in the history of team sport”.
Closest challengers Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and last year’s champions Chelsea, have all failed to match the Foxes’ consistency across the season.
“In terms of domestic football, Leicester City winning the Premier League is the greatest achievement ever and I think it will never be surpassed,” former Leicester midfielder Robbie Savage told BBC Sport.
“It is incredible. This is a turning point in Premier League history.”
After Leicester drew 1-1 at Manchester United on Sunday, Tottenham needed to win all three of their remaining league games to catch the Foxes.
But their title hopes were ended when they squandered a 2-0 lead to only draw at London rivals Chelsea.
Match of the Day pundit and former Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and England striker Alan Shearer said Leicester’s achievement was “the biggest thing ever in football”.
Shearer, who won the Premier League in 1995 with underdogs Blackburn, told BBC Sport: “For a team like Leicester to come and take the giants on with their wealth and experience – not only take them on but to beat them – I think it’s the biggest thing to happen in football.”
Gianni Infantino, president of football’s world governing body Fifa, said Leicester’s “beautiful story” was a “fairytale”.
‘A sporting miracle’
Former Leicester, Everton and England striker Gary Lineker described his hometown team’s achievement as “the biggest sporting shock of my lifetime”.
The Match of the Day presenter had suggested the Leicester players were on the “edge of sporting immortality” last month.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said: “This is a miracle which has captured the imagination of the sporting world and beyond. People in every corner of the globe now know where Leicester is.”
Former Foxes manager Martin O’Neill, who led the club to their previous highest Premier League finish of eighth in 2000, said: “Not only is it a brilliant story, but it gives everyone that little bit of hope again. That romance has not left football.
“It’s been the talk of Europe, there’s no question about that. Everything about this season has been remarkable.”
How have they made history?
It is Leicester’s first top-flight title and the club, owned by Thai billionaire businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, have also qualified for next season’s Champions League group stages for the first time.
The Foxes started the season among the favourites for relegation and only the three promoted sides – Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth – were longer odds for the league title.
Ranieri, who took over from the sacked Nigel Pearson in the summer, was seen as an uninspired choice by some fans and pundits after his predecessor had overseen a run of seven wins in nine games as Leicester escaped relegation in 2014-15.
The Italian’s previous job ended abruptly when his Greece side lost to European minnows Faroe Islands during Euro 2016 qualifying.
Yet the charismatic 64-year-old’s side – assembled for less than £30m and playing pacey, direct, counter-attacking football – has confounded the experts.
Savage added: “I’m speechless, it is unbelievable. I’ve seen England win the Ashes and get OBEs and MBEs. This Leicester team’s achievement is greater than any of that. They should be recognised in the honours list.”
Comparison with other sporting shocks
- Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side were promoted to the top flight, won the league and then won two European Cups in consecutive seasons between 1976 and 1980.
- Baseball’s Boston Red Sox finally triumphed in the 2004 World Series – 86 years after their last win.
- Unseeded 17-year-old German Boris Becker became the youngest player to win the Wimbledon tennis tournament with victory in 1985.
- Chain-smoking rookie reserve John Daly won the 1991 US PGA golf championship after being drafted in as a late replacement.
- Undisputed, undefeated boxing heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson was knocked out by flu-ridden ‘stooge’ Buster Douglas in Tokyo, 1990.
Putting Leicester on the map
Leicester’s title triumph is expected to generate millions of pounds in additional income for the local economy with tourism boosted by the club’s higher global profile.
Kasabian, the Leicester-born platinum-selling, stadium-filling rock band, will play two gigs at the Foxes’ King Power Stadium on 28 and 29 May, saying it will be “the biggest party the city has ever seen”. Guitarist Serge Pizzorno said: “It feels like we’re almost centre of the universe.”
Mayor of Leicester Peter Soulsby has kept celebration plans secret, but said: “Twelve months ago we were re-interring the remains of the last king of England to die in battle [Richard III] and we were worried about our football team.
“We had the eyes of the world upon us and frankly we thought that it could not get any better, or bigger. Well, it has.
“I don’t believe in miracles but this is as near as it gets.
“We’ve had media interest from across the world. We were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, I’ve spoken to two German television crews in the last few days, Chilean television and Italian television twice. It really has attracted worldwide attention beyond anything that we fully understood.”
Chairman Srivaddhanaprabha bought the club in 2010 for £39m and, after Leicester were promoted from the Championship in 2014, said he would spend £180m to get them into European competition in three years.
According to BBC South Asia correspondent Jonathan Head, the Thai businessman’s travel retail group King Power has “hit the jackpot” and can now start to “tap into a bottomless well of passion in this football-mad nation of 68m people”.
A team of bargain buys and cast-offs
Leicester’s story is epitomised by 29-year-old striker Jamie Vardy. Released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 for being too small, he then rose through non-league football until Leicester paid Fleetwood Town £1m for him in 2012.
He is now an England international, second in the Premier League’s scoring charts this season and was named the Football Writers’ Association Football of the Year on Monday.
Meanwhile, Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year, Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez, 25, was bought for just £400,000 from French second-tier side Le Havre in January 2014.
Only 14 players have made more than a dozen league appearances and Ranieri’s preferred starting XI cost an estimated £22m – less than a 10th of what is arguably big-spending Manchester City’s first-choice line-up.
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The key stats
- Since the Premier League began in 1992-93, only Blackburn Rovers have managed to take the title away from either Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City.
- Leicester’s highest previous top-flight finish was second in 1928-29.
- Ranieri – known in England as ‘The Tinkerman’ after his spell as Chelsea boss more than a decade ago – has made just 27 changes to his line-up across the entire Premier League season. The next lowest is Bournemouth (50).
- At 42.3%, Leicester have the lowest average possession figure of any Premier League champion since 2006-07.
- Of Leicester’s 22 wins this season, 19 have come despite having a lower share of possession than their opponents.
- At the start of April, Leicester were seven points clear at the top of the Premier League. Exactly one year earlier, they were bottom of the table, seven points from safety.
The games that shaped Leicester’s season
Leicester 3-2 Aston Villa, September 2015: The Foxes score three times in the final 18 minutes to move second in the table.
Stoke 2-2 Leicester, September 2015: Another comeback maintains the Foxes’ unbeaten start to the season.
Leicester 1-1 Manchester United, November 2015: Jamie Vardy scores in his 11th consecutive game – a new Premier League record.
Leicester 2-1 Chelsea, December 2015: Defending champions Chelsea are left just a point above the relegation zone as Leicester return to the top of the table.
Tottenham 0-1 Leicester, January 2016: Rivals Spurs are beaten by a late Robert Huth header. Two further FA Cup games between the teams in the same month see Spurs go through after a replay.
Manchester City 1-3 Leicester, February 2016: Nearest rivals Manchester City are comprehensively beaten by another superb away performance. Riyad Mahrez becomes the first player to reach double figures in terms of both goals (14) and assists (10) in the Premier League this season.
Leicester 1-0 Southampton, April 2016: A fifth 1-0 win in their past six games puts Leicester seven points clear of nearest rivals Spurs with only half a dozen games left.
Leicester 4-0 Swansea, April 2016: Despite top scorer Jamie Vardy being suspended and Tottenham chasing hard, Leicester show no signs of pressure with a routine victory to go eight points clear with three games to go.
‘The biggest sporting upset of all time’ – the odds
BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty was one of hundreds of journalists and pundits to predict a lowly finish and probable relegation for Leicester in his season preview.
At the start of the season, 47 people placed a bet with Ladbrokes for Leicester to win the title at 5000-1, around half of whom chose to cash out early.
One Leicester fan took £72,000 from a £50 bet, when he would have won £250,000.
Bookmaker William Hill’s Joe Crilly described Leicester’s title win as “the biggest sporting upset of all time”, while Ladbrokes’ Alex Donohue said it was their “biggest payout by a distance”.
Crilly added: “It is not just a one-off like a Japan beating South Africa in the rugby (which was 200-1), it has been a sustained effort over a full season and one which we, as bookmakers, continued to believe was impossible until just a few weeks ago.
“The Foxes only became odds-on favourites for the first time at the end of March when they moved five points ahead at the top of the table, such was the scepticism with which we viewed Leicester’s ability to continue their title push. It is quite simply incredible.”
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What social media said about Leicester’s season
And these are the 10 most discussed Leicester moments of the season on Twitter:
- Danny Welbeck scores a dramatic last-minute winner to give Arsenal a 2-1 win over Leicester – 51,000 tweets per minute (14 Feb, 2016).
- Jamie Vardy breaks the record for goals in consecutive Premier League games by scoring against Manchester United – 33,000 (28 Nov, 2015).
- Robert Huth scores his second to put Leicester 3-0 up at Manchester City – 31,000 (6 Feb, 2016).
- Riyad Mahrez puts Leicester 2-0 up against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium – 24,000 (6 Feb, 2016).
- Vardy puts Leicester 1-0 up from the spot against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium – 24,000 (14 Feb, 2016).
- Mahrez scores a wonder goal to put Leicester 2-0 up against Chelsea – 22,000 (14 Dec, 2015).
- Arsenal’s Theo Walcott equalises against Leicester with 20 minutes to play – 19,000 (14 Feb, 2016).
- Vardy opens the scoring for Leicester at the King Power against Chelsea – 18,000 (14 Dec, 2015).
- Vardy breaks away to put Leicester 2-0 up against Sunderland – 18,000 (10 Apr, 2015).
- West Ham shock the King Power with two goals in two minutes, before Leonardo Ulloa equalises with a controversial penalty at the end – 17,000 (17 Apr, 2016).