At the start of the 2015/16 Premier League season, Leicester were 5000/1 with Britain’s bookmakers to win the league championship in England on the back of a campaign where they were almost relegated into the second tier of English football.
The man who managed to steer the club away from the drop zone, Nigel Pearson, left in the summer and Claudio Ranieri joined the Foxes for his second spell in England some 11 years after leaving Chelsea in 2005.
Many pundits predicted Leicester would struggle again, with a relegation battle expected to follow. Confidence behind Ranieri was very low as the Italian, who was known as ‘tinkerman’ by the British press following his changes to his team from game to game while at Chelsea, had just been sacked by the Greece national team. They had failed to qualify for Euro 2016, finishing bottom of their qualifying campaign, with defeat to minnows Faroe Islands adding to the embarrassment.
Despite their lengthy pre-season odds of 5000/1, Leicester have clung on to the top spot in the table going into the final third of the campaign. Jamie Vardy has put himself in contention to be part of Roy Hodgson’s 23-man England squad for Euro 2016 in France following his string of goals this season where he is now 6/4 with 32Red and Ladbrokes to be top Premier League goalscorer, while Riyad Mahrez has lit up the league since he joined the club from French side Le Havre.
There is still long way to go for Leicester to complete the fairytale story of winning the Premier League title. However, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham all struggling to remain consistent, the dream is very much a possibility. At the time of writing, Leicester were 7/4 with 32Red UK in their Premier League outright betting.
Not only would Leicester’s achievement be unprecedented in betting history, nothing comes close in Europe to the 5000/1 pre-season odds that 32Red quoted when it comes to surprise league championship winners. Here are two clubs which were able to break the big clubs’ stronghold on the title in their respective countries.
Blackburn Rovers – 1994/95 Premier League winners
Only five clubs have won the Premier League since the old English First Division was rebranded in 1992. When you look back at those winners in that time, Blackburn Rovers are the club that standout the most.
Now competing in the Championship, Rovers have struggled to follow up their success and have since faded out of the top flight due to financial difficulties.
Although it now difficult to see a club the size of Blackburn winning the Premier League, their successful wasn’t quite as big of a fairytale as it may appear now on paper. Local steel baron Jack Walker took ownership of the club in 1992 and pumped millions of pounds into the club. He appointed Kenny Dalglish as his manager in which he signed Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, two of the leading striker in England whose goals helped them to the championship in 1995.
Before their success in the 94/95 season, they had finished runners-up to Manchester United 12 months earlier. The title race went all the way down to the final game of the campaign in 1995 and despite Rovers losing to Liverpool, United were held by West Ham ensuring the title headed to Ewood Park.
They went off the following season at 4-1 with BetVictor, however, they failed to defend their title and could only finish seventh as Manchester United got back their grip on the league crown.
Atletico Madrid – 2013/14 La Liga winners
The two giants of Spanish football Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated La Liga over the past couple of decades, however, they did not have it their own way in 2014 as Atletico Madrid got the better of both clubs to record an unlikely league championship success.
Although the club, managed by Argentine former player Diego Simeone, featured the likes of Thibaut Courtois (on loan from Chelsea) and Diego Costa, they were up against two of the greatest sides in modern day history. Barcelona boasted Lionel Messi, Neymar, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, while on the other side of Madrid, Real, who did get the better of local rivals Atletico in the final of the Champions League that season, had Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria in their ranks.
Simeone was able to create a great bond in his squad and ensured his players had the belief to tackle Barcelona and Real to the silverware. Their defence was the best in the league by some distance as they only conceded 26 goals in 38 games as Diego Godin and Miranda were rock solid in the centre of their back four, while Courtois shined in goal ensuring the club won their first league title in 17 years.