Leicester City's Premier League title defies any logical explanation

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So what happens now? What are we supposed to do with this? Where do we even go from here?

Where is the logic anymore when Leicester City are the champions of the Premier League with two rounds of games to go? Do we really know anything at all about sports? When a club that just a year and two weeks ago was dead last and a certainty for relegation in the world's most competitive soccer league is now its deserving champion? Without significant investment, big-name additions or anything more remarkable than solid performances?

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When a team faces such prohibitively long odds – 5000-1, per the pre-season bookies, a bet almost nobody took, and understandably so? And does the preposterous and what we thought to be the impossible make a mockery of all punditry, analysis and statistical forecasting?

Tottenham Hotspur failed to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the 29th time in a row on Monday – Eden Hazard's late equalizer undid Spurs' 2-0 halftime lead in a violent game – and thus the last challengers to the champions-elect were mathematically eliminated. For the first time in the club's 132-year history, Leicester is English champion, just seven years after they played in the third-tier League 1, just two years after gaining promotion to the top flight. The Foxes became only the sixth team to win the Premier League since its inception in 1992.

[ PHOTOS: Leicester fans celebrate Premier League title | Other bets with 5000-1 odds ]

It is a feat that so beggars belief that for weeks, writers and talkers have struggled to place it into the appropriate context. Because there really isn't any. One of the Premier League's smallest clubs winning the whole thing, in an age when the finances are so lopsided as to make such an outcome totally implausible, defies definition – not to mention the natural order.

Let's get this out first, though: The Foxes' title was unlikely, though hardly undeserved.

Yes, Chelsea's collapse in the fall was inexplicable, Manchester City was inconsistent, Manchester United remained mired in its identity crisis, Arsenal fell off after the winter yet again, Liverpool was still a ways from being competitive and Tottenham's maturation and subsequent surge came too late.

But Leicester had the most points, and the team with the most points is the deserved winner. This is mathematically, logically and philosophically true. And it also speaks to the height of the achievement at a club where everything coalesced in uncanny unison.

Veteran manager Claudio Ranieri seemed an uninspired choice to lead the team after it only just avoided relegation last year, but he got his tone and tactics just right. Forwards Jamie Vardy and Ryad Mahrez became stars out of nowhere – well, Fleetwood Town and Le Havre, to be exact. N'Golo Kanté quietly and anonymously came in from Cannes and was one of Europe's most coveted midfielders by the end of the season.

Jamie Vardy's emergence as a top goal scorer paralleled Leicester City's rise. (AFP Photo)
Jamie Vardy's emergence as a top goal scorer paralleled Leicester City's rise. (AFP Photo)

Players who had once been bright prospects but never really delivered suddenly came good – goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, defender Robert Huth and midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton. Even those who perhaps under-delivered chipped in, like Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa. While Leicester's most high-profile summer signing, Gokhan Inler, barely featured at all.

It's been a strange season.

Does that make Leicester's title a fluke? Perhaps. All of the usual heavyweights crumpling in concert is statistically far-fetched. It calls to mind Greece's totally bizarre run to the Euro 2004 title on a similar kind of bunker-and-counter approach. But as a counterpoint, Greece did it in a six-game tournament, whereas Leicester slogged its way through a 38-game schedule and locked it up with a few weeks to spare.

Then perhaps Leicester are more like Uruguay, the country of just 3 million that has somehow reached the final four of the World Cup five times, winning it twice. They are underdogs, both economically and geographically, yet so shrewd and committed that their success somehow doesn't feel unnatural or unwarranted.

So what if all of this isn't a coincidence? What if it's just as much a symptom of something fundamental changing as it is of the failure of the big clubs and Leicester catching lightning in a bottle?

What if the megabucks that have flooded into the Premier League through its new broadcast deals around the world have created a weird kind of parity? One in which the big clubs still earn a multiple of what the small ones do, but where everybody has so much money that save for the truly elite players, any team can afford to buy and retain any player it wants? The Leicester Citys of the world still can't sign Lionel Messi, but they can now probably sign the next tier of players. And they can hold onto their best talent.

The playing field may have been leveled in a once unimaginable way. It isn't flat, exactly, but smooth enough where everybody can compete. Or maybe it all was just an aberration and the Premier League will regress to its three-champions-in-11-years and four-champions-in-20-years mean, back to the oligarchy underwritten by foreign oligarchs.

We'll know next year.

In the meantime, Leicester City is the Premier League champion. Watching as a team at Vardy's house, the Foxes roared and cheered and sang upon the final whistle, and then they went into a stunned silence.

They didn't seem to understand quite what had happened. And just as soon as anyone has come with a more cogent explanation, we'll be sure to relay it to you.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

 

 

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