The future cannot stop the immortal: Leicester City’s remarkable season will stand the test of time:
As Leicester City’s momentous title-winning season ends and the trophy has been paraded around the streets, a different challenge now faces the club. The future. The immediate future for Leicester City begs the question: Can they possibly keep all their players?
With Champions League football guaranteed at The King Power next year, it’s clear the excitement and surrealism of the Leicester City story still has more chapters yet to be written into the history books.
However, the history of football also teaches us a great deal about the pragmatic and almost inevitably tedious realities of the sport. Players who excel from ‘smaller’ teams tend to move onto the ‘bigger’ teams, without any real shocks reverberating around the football world. It’s just how it is, and how it always has been. But with Leicester, does it need to be how it always will be?
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side are now a football anomaly, or as close to it as the English game has seen since the great Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. It was perceived as impossible for Leicester to keep answering the critics time and time again this season, very few thought they wouldn’t fall away.
Part of the minority who did believe they could do it were the players themselves, which showed continuously in their ruthless defiance of football rationality. Their performances week in week out were that of individuals playing at their very best, with a sense of togetherness unrivalled with ease this season. The magnitude of their achievement is still unlikely to have sunk in yet, nor will it for a long time, yet speculation around what’s next will have to very soon.
Players tend to leave for European football, if not that a chance to genuinely compete for titles, or, almost certainly least appealingly to fans, money. And with the Leicester players having already achieved the first two feats, it’s only the latter that could even begin to unravel this team.
Part of the beauty of the Leicester City story was the disparity of finance they had at their disposal compared to their rivals. Instead of purely spending big money on big names (a near impossibility for the club), they scouted intensely and found players far less sought after and off the radar than most Premier League clubs tend to go for.
N’Golo Kanté perhaps being the best example, a player who it has been well documented was practising his trade in the French 8th Division only a few years ago. His performances this season have been instrumental in Leicester’s success, without him, things simply would not have worked quite the same. Without Riyad Mahrez, without Jamie Vardy and without an entire club ethos built to perfection none of this would have been possible for Leicester.
But it would be wrong to forget the man who played a huge role in bringing these players to the club, Steve Walsh, who too played his part in creating football history. He exemplifies the hard work that has gone on off the field at Leicester for many years, and like everyone else who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, fully deserves to enjoy Leicester’s incredible achievement.
Nigel Pearson, too, more than deserves a mention. He guided the club through an incredibly testing campaign last season and helped ensure there was still Premier League success in the 2015/2016 season to even fight for.
And of course, his successor, Claudio Ranieri, who has lit up England with his infectious humour and likeability, he made many experienced pundits who doubted him happily eat their words and enjoy watching him lead the most magnificent of sporting achievements.
Both Ranieri and Pearson can take great pride in seeing how far the club has come.
The idea that players could leave, or anyone else who has made the club tick this year, still remains a difficult one though. It is, however, worth taking a step back before taking one forward, on this rarest of occasions.
The ultimate aim of football is to achieve, regardless of division, country or competition, the aim stays the same. For some clubs these achievements will come with frequency, in England, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and a handful of other teams have dominated. In Spain, Barcelona, the Madrids, in Italy, Juventus, the Milans.
Of course, other teams have all competed strongly in these divisions, a number of teams have even caused huge shocks too, but none quite like Leicester City. Leicester City have won the title by 10 points with two games to spare, they have finished a massive 31 points ahead of last years’ champions, Chelsea, and perhaps most impressively they have played like champions for an entire season. A cliché that gets thrown about a lot, but never ever, for ‘little old’ Leicester. The utter brilliance of the club this season cannot be understated, they have defied odds on so many fronts.
It is therefore important to understand that going forward, none of this changes. If players depart, if the league position slips, if Champions League football proves too much, if football normality resumes, the City of Leicester will always have this achievement.
When Richard III was discovered in Leicester in 2012, it became a point of mockery that this was all the city was known for. In football terms, Leicester found themselves in the Championship, after escaping the even less glamorous League One only a few years earlier. A Premier League title win was on nobodies mind. Leicester never expected to be known, first and foremost, without a shadow of a doubt, for its football team. Now they will be for eternity. For any football fan, let alone a Leicester City fan, this is the ultimate achievement in sport — to be immortal. The underdog has risen, and regardless of how long it stays it has more than made its mark.