by Arley Gill
Leicester City: A football team that cost about £44 million (about US$68 million) to assemble, much cheaper than the cost of a top individual football player these days. For instance, the market value, which includes club salary for Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona is estimated at $272 to $317 million; Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, $144 to 167 million; and Brazilian Neymar of Barcelona, $86 to $99 million.
Leicester City was given odds of 5000–1 to win the 2016 Barclays–sponsored English Premier League (EPL). And the manager of the team, Claudio Ranieri of Italy, was the bookies’ favourite to be the first manager to be sacked this season, after he was fired by Greece, following that nation’s defeat to footballing minnows the Faroe Islands. But, with all that, Leicester City wins the EPL this year — and doing so with games to spare. Wow! Simply fantastic! Maybe, the 8th wonder of the world.
As a devout Arsenal fan, and one who believes that Arsene Wenger should remain in charge of that wonderful club, I salute Leicester; champions of England.
The finances in football — and most professional sports leagues in Europe and North America — have long defied the sanity and the logic of the world economy. As nations’ economies contract and developing nations implement austerity measures, the price of purchasing footballers, along with their weekly wages, continues to soar.
Endorsements of players by huge corporations also continue to increase by millions of dollars, whilst the employees of the same corporations do not enjoy a commensurate salary hike.
Truth be told, as mentioned earlier, the same issues around remuneration in sports versus the rest of the economy in most nations, are valid for cricket, athletics, basketball and other major professional sports. Global sports remains largely unaffected by the economic realities of the world.
With the likes of EPL club Chelsea struggling and having to sack their title-winning coach José Mourinho during the course of the season; with Manchester United a shadow of the team that once was under Sir Alex Ferguson; and with Manchester City erratically inconsistent earlier on in the season, the 2016 English Premier League championship looked winnable for any team playing consistent soccer.
My Arsenal club, up to midway in the season, appeared to be the only “big four team” that could win the title. Well, they collapsed in the second part of the season.
Leicester FC was a team that was fighting to avoid relegation last season. After sacking their coach Nigel Pearson during the summer, and appointing Ranieri (referred to in England as the “Tinkerman”), Leicester started the season well. However, the pundits always predicted that the team’s good form would fade.
Leicester, skippered by Jamaican international Wes Morgan, included relatively little-known players such as England’s Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez of France and N’Golo Kanté, a French national member of Malian descent. They played attacking and fearless football throughout the season. Only Tottenham, in the latter stages of the competition, provided some challenge. But Leicester was able to hold their nerves and win the EPL title.
Leicester’s triumph brings to mind the feat of our West Indies cricketers in the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s. The truth is, for all the disappointment on and off the field in recent times, we have punched above our weight in the field of cricket. All the major cricketing nations have a significantly larger population and economy than our collective islands.
Jamaica, in the field of athletics, is another example.
All of this goes to show what determination, hard work, and commitment can achieve.
Leicester provides us with great inspiration of what can be achieved in sports, and in life as well when the odds are against you. No one, honestly, expected Leicester to win the EPL title; not the club owners or even the players themselves. However, no one can now deny that they deserve to win.
They were able to scout top class talent and contract same at bargain prices. It will be interesting to see what sort of business they do in the transfer window, as the football world awaits their participation in next season’s champions’ league.
Well done, Leicester!