Sports journalists, fans, players, all have been shocked by Leicester City unforeseen climb to the top of the English Premier League. But professional sports are all about “what have you done for me lately?” So the questions is whether the Foxes have what it takes to hang with the local elite – your Manchester Uniteds, your Chelseas, your Arsenals, your Liverpools – and even, why not, with the cream of the European crop – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus, Real Madrid. The key seems to keeping the team’s core together.
At least, that is what coach Claudio Ranieri’s request for his players to stay one more year would indicate. And this is not just selfishness on his part but genuine concern as well, as they previously unsung champions might fall victim to the small-fish-in-a-big-pond syndrome were they to move on to top-tier teams – which will no doubt come calling now. Sure, they might get a bigger paycheck – and such materialistic views are the defining trait of mercenaries like Real Madrid’s goalkeeper (who shall remain nameless) and not that of true sportsmen – but as Ranieri points out, they might not even get on the pitch.
As it turns out, Leicester’s players are as indebted to the club as the club is to them. Case in point, striker Jamie Vardy. According to vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the 29 year old often showed up drunk at training sessions. Not hung-over, mind you, but still intoxicated from the previous night. He had signed for Leicester City in 2012 for a non-League record transfer fee of £1 million, so it was a typical story of too much, too soon Srivaddhanaprabha confronted him with the choice of either quit drinking or being released from the team. Seems rather hypocritical coming from the chairman of vice, but it worked. Vardy got on the wagon and turn his life and career around.
Vardy, as well as winger Riyad Mahrez and midfielder N’Golo Kante have been the subjects of rumors about moving away from Leicester. Mahrez was named the PFA Player of the Year award after scoring 17 goals and 11 assists. His agent Kamel Bengougam said that right now it is 50/50 whether he stays or goes. But Ranieri is not going anywhere – dismissing suggestion that he might quite on a high note – and that might be all the enticement some of the boys need to remain with the squad. Moreover, he has said he does not want any big star players on the team, either. If the roster and the coaching staff manage to stick together, people who bet on soccer would certainly keep their attention on Leicester City – though it wouldn’t be the greatest soccer betting upset ever all over again.