Leicester City's English Premier League success (EPL) might look like unreal and fairytale-ish, but it is real and their victory has given hope to smaller clubs who fight for their existence while getting promoted and relegated from one division to other as the big boys of football keep strengthening their squad and winning titles with huge sums of money.
Leave aside the 5000-to-1 odds of the Foxes becoming the champions, other than Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, there are no other teams we think about when we have to pick favourites for the EPL crown.
Blackburn Rovers won the Championship in 1994-95 and after that EPL trophy has either went to Manchester or London. Liverpool came close on a few occasions but that was it. Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Southampton and West Ham United have always been good competition for the big clubs but never looked like a real threat.
EPL is the most popular and the richest football league in the world because, although there are just 3-4 teams in the contention to win the title, all the 20 clubs have the the capability to beat each other on their day. But what Leicester have done is beyond 'absurd'.
You can expect them to beat the likes of United, Chelsea and Arsenal once in a blue moon but to play with the intensity they have shown this entire season is stuff of dreams. They made a fool out of all the football experts and critics who were waiting week after week to see the Foxes slump. But they didn't.
Late-blooming Jamie Vardy has taken a giant leap from playing for non-league club Fleetwood Town to becoming the new sensation of English Football at 29. The ‘unknown’ Algerian Riyad Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year award and has scored 17 goals with 11 assists. N’Golo Kante, who was signed by Leicester for mere £5.6m from Ligue 2 side SM Caen, is the most highly-rated player of this season and the Frenchman's non-stop running ability in the field makes players like Mahrez and Vardy flourish up front.
These three players and many others like Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton, were either rejects from top clubs or bunch of nobodies whom Claudio Ranieri turned into a unit that was just not ready to give up against the elites of the EPL.
Raneri is the same man who was jobless a year back after being sacked as the manager of Greece’s national football team.
Jose Mourinho made fun of the Italian before a Serie A clash in 2008, saying: "He is almost 70 years old. He has won a Super Cup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality. He’s old and he hasn’t won anything. I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans. Ranieri had been in England for five years and still struggles to say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Afternoon'."
Well, how time has changed and the ever-smiling Raneri has given it back to Jose in style. After winning the Premier League title with Chelsea, Jose's team had a disastrous season. The Blues are now struggling at the ninth place, Jose has lost his job and Ranieri's men are the champions of England.
Just 13 months back, a Nigel Pearson-lead Leicester were last in the League table and were looking certain to drop down to the second league, but they made a brilliant comeback by winning seven out of last nine games to finish 14th. But this was not the club’s worst in their 132-year-old history.
Leicester, after finishing 15th, 16th and 19th in the second division, had a humiliating campaign in 2007-08 when they managed to win just 12 of their 46 matches and slumped to the third tier of English football. Once they hit the rock-bottom, it was time for redemption.
In seven years, the Foxes went From playing in the third tier to winning the Premier League title and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time.