OT: Update - now on verge of most historic upset pro champ ever

Submitted by superstringer on April 25th, 2016 at 5:52 PM

Author's note:  This is about soccer.  If you find the subject-matter distasteful, please move along.  But if you are a SPORTS fan, even if you don't follow soccer, you SHOULD read this.

With the Tottenham Hotspurs (at home) "drawing" (=tying) West Brom Albion 1-1 today, England's Premier League is now on the verge of the MOST AMAZING sports championship just about EVER.

First-place Leicester City Foxes are 7 points clear with only 3 games remaining in the season.  At 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw (=tie), the only way Tottenham can catch LC is if LC loses at least one and either loses or draws (=ties) the other two, AND Tottenham wins all three.

In other words -- Leicester needs only ONE WIN in its last 3 games to win the title.


- With 9 games to go last year, LC was in last place, facing "relegation" to the next-lower division (confusingly called the Championship) (although that's not as confusing as the next-next-lower tier, the 3d tier in England called--wait for it--the First Division).  LC went on to win 7 of their last 9 to stave off relegation, and they just didn't stop winning.

- They were famously 5000-to-1 at the start of this year to win the Premier League.  That's the same odds you can get for Christmas being the warmest day in the UK of the year, or Chloe Kardashian being elected president in 2020.  (Although...)

- No team outside of five has won the Premier League since its inception just over 20 years ago.  IIRC no team outside of a cabal of six teams has gotten close, for that matter.  And by "close" I mean top 5.

- The cost to LC to assemble its ENTIRE team (through "transfer fees") is about $50 million -- which is less than the cost of the transfer fees for some INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS on their heavyweight competitors like Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, etc.  The entire salary base of LC is a small fraction of the top teams.

- None of LC's top players this year were on any major team's radar -- ever.  Their top goal scorer, James Vardy, is 29 and was in much lower divisions until the last couple of years.  Their best player (and just voted this year's POTY for the entire League), Mahrez, was plucked out of a 2d-tier French team.  Their captain, Morgan (see what I did there), was considered a washed-up never-has-been.  Now -- Vardy, Mahrez, and their top defensive midfielder Kante will all command "massive" transfer fees this summer.  (Although Vardy's age could be an issue for him.)

- European soccer is not designed to ensure parity -- it's designed to ensure the Haves keep what they have.  No draft (it's a free-for-all to sign and develop players.)  No mandatory minimum on salaries.  No maximum on salaries (although recently you can't spend more than you earn...but when you earn 30X as much as another team....)

There is literally no equivalent in the US pro leagues, for sure.  Mandatory salary minimums, the draft, etc. make even unlikely champions not all that totally unlikely -- the moneyball A's, the 'Greatest Show on Turf' Rams, etc.

TUNE IN if you can.  Just watch the spectacle of LC possibly winning the most unlikely, unpredictable championship, EVER.

But while they need just one win, LC's 3 games remaining aren't joke-easy games.  Next up is an away game at Manchester United, who while not their best ever team, is in 5th place.  Then comes a home game against Everton, who again isn't having their best season but they have plenty of ability to score (defending is their problem).  Finally they'd be on the road at defending champ Chelsea, who is having a VERY sub-par season.  But if LC were to lose the next two and have to win at Chelsea, the pressure will be unbelievable.

Chelsea might still have something to say beforehand, however.  Chelea and Tottenham are both London teams, and thus arch rivals.  Tottenham plays Chelsea this weekend.  So even if Man United beats LC... if Chelsea beats Tottenham, it's OVER.  Chelsea players are already quoted as saying they want to stop their rival from winning the title, so this weekend's Chelsea-Spurs game could be a bloodbath.  In a good-to-watch sort of way.

Seriously -- if you made a movie about this, nobody would have believed it.  Except Cubs fans like myself, possibly.

Sad note to Gunners fans:  Frankly, I don't care about Arsenal either way.  (I would point out, though, you do have a Frenchman for a manager.)  Anyway, it's fun to tease Arsenal fans, and once again, we can point out, a year in which Man United, and Man City, and Chelsea all SUCK... you STILL can't win the title.




April 25th, 2016 at 8:41 PM ^

Arsenal won't win anything as long as Arsene Wenger is still the manager. Not to mention the LA Rams' owner also owns majority share of Arsenal. 

So yep, Arsenal is fucked either way you look at it. 


On the brightside, Juventus just won a historic 5th straight Serie A title after losing 4 of its first 8 matches to start the season. 


Title #32 Forza Juve!


April 25th, 2016 at 11:29 PM ^

I'm sorry but what do you mean "then again, Ricketts?" The Ricketts/Epstein had to build a foundation of scouts, coaches, and front office members just to become on par with most teams in those areas. That doesn't happen overnight. Anyone who critizices how the Ricketts have handled the Cubs since buying the team has no idea what they are talking about. The Tribune left the Ricketts almost nothing and they completely revamped the front office and the entire organization and are now the best team in baseball at this point of the season and will only continue to get better as they have an extrememly young core, the ability to continue to increase payroll, and a great minors system in place. While it is never 100% for a team to win the WS the Cubs are now in a postion where they will extremely good for many years to come. 


April 26th, 2016 at 1:21 AM ^

I give all the credit to Epstein. Ricketts made two obvious hires (offering the best candidate available the best position available) but otherwise haven't inspired.

Most of the organization outside of the GM office is just Ricketts friends and family and they have blown plenty; tearing through a 15 year season ticket wait list in 4 years, botching renovations and the closings of the bleachers/world of port a potties, the creepy pantless mascot.

If Epstein keeps his autonomy in perpetuity they'll be in great shape. I just worry about the owners meddling given how things have tracked that they've been in charge of. The Cubs are an incredible moneymaker and running them is not as hard as previous ownership's ineptness shows.

For the record I live in Chicago and want the Cubs to do well.


April 25th, 2016 at 5:57 PM ^

So glad you posted this...we are on the verge of something absolutely remarkable...so not happy you did it the way you did it. This thread is gonna blow up. with "purists" bitching and "haters" hating. Oy vey.


April 25th, 2016 at 6:22 PM ^

Started the season at 5000-1 but even in January, a lot of people thought Leicester would fade away even as they were leading the league.  I don't follow soccer gambling at all, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could have still made a bet then at pretty good odds.


April 26th, 2016 at 12:26 AM ^

I've read this all over and I've never actually seen which book was offering this so I'm skeptical, but if it actually was offered somewhere that is some of the worst oddsmaking imaginable.  I don't care how great the talent difference, there are only 20 teams in the league, and only maybe 6-7 who were CLEARLY better on paper.   

I mean, San Diego State is only 300-1 to win the CFP next year, and there is far far far far less a chance that happens than 1 of 20 teams wins a double round-robin. 


April 26th, 2016 at 1:59 AM ^

Well that's just a terrible job by that oddsmaker and they deserve to get burned.  In theory you set the odds to draw in enough other random bets on Bournemouth, Villa, Norwich, Watford to win the title, plus misses on legitmate bets on City, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea that you cover yourself if one of those longshots hits.

5000-1 is EMU-to-win-the-CFP level.  Leicester is more like a mid-tier power 5 team, say Virginia or Indiana or Washington State.  It's highly unlikely but it's not beyond comprehension. 

West Brom and Southhampton were in or around the CL places until late last year, Swansea before them.  It happens.  Usually doesn't go all the way to the top, but it happens.

Blue in Yarmouth

April 26th, 2016 at 8:00 AM ^

but if you really believe that than I don't think you haved followed the premier league for very long. As the OP pointed out, there are only a select few teams that have EVER won the EPL. The foxes were a hair from being relegated last season season and not even being in the EPL this year. A team like this winning any of the soccer leagues around the world has NEVER happened. 


You compare it to college football. If you are making a real comparison the Foxes wouldn't be a middle of the pack power 5 team if you are making the comparison based on resources available to them. They wouldn't even be an App. St. Add to that that in CFB you play 12 games per year and it would be much easier for a team of lesser talent to make a run at the CFP than an EPL team sustaining that over the course of an entire season.

Compare Man UTD (who I cheer for in the EPL) with the Foxes. Man Utd in 4 transfer windows under LVG have spent over 300 million pounds on transfers. 300 MILLION! Some one could probably buy the LC team for less than that. 

You're selling this feat terribly short. There isn't one sane person on the planet that has followed the EPL for any length of time that would have ever even predicted LC would make the CL next year, never mind win the EPL. I would bet most knowledgeable fans would have said there would have been a better chance of LC being relegated than getting a top 4 spot. 

The chances that this would happen are far less than the scenarios you presented. 

South Bend Wolverine

April 25th, 2016 at 6:12 PM ^

I've always loved soccer, but never cared about any club team more or less than any other.  I focus more on the international game, and for the club level, I just enjoy the show without a rooting interest.  This year, though, me & all my housemates have become huge Foxes fans.  They're so close, and if they can make this happen, it will be the greatest underdog triumph ever!


April 25th, 2016 at 6:14 PM ^

Also, Leicester and Tottenham both play an entertaining style to watch.  An added bonus is that neither of the top 2 are super dominant, so there's a little more doubt in their games than the average frontrunners'  (i.e. it won't be like Alabama playing Southeast West Florida Georgia Line State) 


April 25th, 2016 at 11:18 PM ^

I don't think this quite gets Leicester's strategy. They rarely put 10/11 behind the ball. They've been leaving Vardy and Mahrez or Okazaki up the field to drive the counter when they turn the ball over in the midfield. And they play high press too, their first goal against Swansea came when Mahrez forced a dumb pass that he intercepted (with his elbow, shhh) and slotted home.

They don't want to possess the ball, like, at all. I think they're last in the league in possession stats. But they're thrilling on the counter. When they turn teams over, they spring into attack, with Vardy using his speed in the channels and Mahrez playing up the flank. 

I do think that Tottenham is more interesting, in they've got more varied players, but Leicester is terrifically efficient in their ability to spring out of defense into attack and to finish.

Sac Fly

April 25th, 2016 at 7:23 PM ^

If there was a bigger underdog than LC it's their manager Claudio Ranieri. He's never really been a guy you'd look at and say "I want that guy to manage my team" and he's only six months removed from one of the biggest disasters in FIFA history with Greece.

It would be like Gerry DiNardo winning a national championship.


April 25th, 2016 at 6:25 PM ^

I know, I know, storytale run and all, but let's just remember: The best pro sports stories are always financial engineering stories.

In summary:

Leicester City was taken over by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner of retailer King Power, in 2011. Under Premier League Financial Fair Play rules, rich owners can't spend too much more than a team takes in to avoid really rich guys taking over lower tier clubs and sinking hordes of money into them as fun but unprofitable vanity projects. For a while, owners got around this by just buying things from their teams like sponsorships for outrageous amounts instead of blatently giving money to their teams, but the league caught up to that, writing a rule that states: "losses under FFP rules are not reduced by a club owner paying money to the club, or by doing so via sponsorship, if the amount paid is clearly inflated beyond market value." Mr. Thai billionaire guy was even more clever than that, though, much to the boon of Leicester. He sold the sponsorship rights to an intermediary shell company for an amount well above market value to cover previous years big losses, Trestellar, who then sold the rights back to King Power. "Trestellar, then and still, has no website nor telephone number." By selling the rights to an intermediary and then having that controlled intermediary sell it back to himself, he was able to fool the league for long enough to avoid detection and the limitations of the Financial Fair Play rules.

"The investigation centres on a deal Leicester say they did in January 2014 with a company called Trestellar Ltd, to market the club in the UK and south-east Asia. That deal immediately produced an apparent £11m increase in Leicester’s sponsorship and commercial income, reducing the club’s loss from £34m the previous year. In the club’s most recent accounts, for 2014-15, Leicester say Trestellar sold the club’s main sponsorships – the name on the players’ shirts and the stadium – to King Power, the club’s owners.

The Thai owners were already sponsoring the shirt and stadium before the Trestellar deal; in 2012-13 Leicester’s sponsorship and other commercial income was £5.2m. After the Trestellar deal, with King Power still holding the same main sponsorships, the income immediately jumped to £16m."



April 25th, 2016 at 6:43 PM ^

Mobile +1 for interesting info about shady dealings in European soccer (shocked..) but 16 mil is still a fraction of a fraction of the income of the big dogs in EPL and even with more money at their disposal it doesn't change the fact that all their players were either unwanted or just completely unknown by bigger clubs. This would be the equivalent of a 16 seed actually winning the NCAA tourney after getting in by winning their conference tourney with a losing record that season. Sports fans who have heard about soccer on sports center have only heard about the top 5 who have won the EPL, and plenty of casual soccer fans who know the EPL had never heard of LC before this or last year. These players will never pay for another meal in England in their lives.