In August they were 5000-1 to win the league. They were favourites for relegation. Now Leicester City have pulled off the greatest underdog story in sporting history by winning their first ever English top division title, and from favourite to be the first manager sacked to champion, Claudio Ranieri must now be remembered as one of the Premier League’s greatest managers.
On Saturday Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy in a party atmosphere at the King Power Stadium. It showed just how far the Foxes had come from a year previously, when the club, under the management of Nigel Pearson, had only just remained in the division following a run of form at the end of the season that saw them win seven of their last nine games.
Many were taken by surprise by the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as manager. Since his time with Chelsea was cut short in 2004, the Italian has been in charge of six clubs, failing to win a league title. His most recent job had come with the Greek national side, from which he was sacked after some poor results including a defeat to the Faroe Islands.
However the 64-year-old has silenced the critics by the job he has done at Leicester. He has taken a side from favourites for the drop to champions, something which has never before been done in the Premier League era.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Italian’s season has been the way he has adapted his style to suit his players. The self confessed “Tinkerman” has made the fewest changes of any manager in the Premier League this season, prompting him to rename himself “the Thinkerman”.
Ranieri has also deployed a style of football at Leicester by which they have sat back, and won games by hitting teams on the break through the pace of the attacking players. The Foxes have averaged just over 40% possession, the fewest of any Premier League champions since statistics were first recorded.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who led Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles, will undoubtedly be remembered as the league’s, and possibly the world’s greatest manager. However the question must be asked, would any other manager have been able to have such flexibility in their tactics to lead a club like Leicester to the title? It seems incredibly unlikely.
What this Leicester side have achieved under Ranieri is nothing short of incredible, and may never be repeated. The Italian will undoubtedly go down in club folklore, and most likely, Premier League history as well.