Messi leads Le­ices­ter plau­dits

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Lionel Messi spoke for the great and the good of world soc­cer, not to men­tion mil­lions of grass­roots fans, when he ac­claimed Le­ices­ter City’s ex­tra­or­di­nary Pre­mier League tri­umph by tweet­ing: “The rea­son why we all love foot­ball. Congratulations”.

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino echoed the most com­mon and apt de­scrip­tion of the “beau­ti­ful story” as a “fairy­tale” af­ter the 5,000-1 out­siders, who per­formed a mirac­u­lous es­cape from rel­e­ga­tion last sea­son, were crowned cham­pi­ons on Mon­day.

Le­ices­ter’s first top-flight ti­tle was se­cured af­ter their only re­main­ing chal­lengers Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur were held to a 2-2 draw at Chelsea when need­ing to win to keep the race alive.

Real Madrid’s former Spurs player Gareth Bale, whose side are bat­tling with Messi’s Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for the Span­ish ti­tle, took a sim­i­lar view.

“Gut­ted for @Spur­sof­fi­cial but con­grats to @LCFC, amaz­ing sea­son!! Love Foot­ball,” the Welsh­man tweeted.

Ex-le­ices­ter and Eng­land striker Gary Lineker said: “Le­ices­ter City have won the Pre­mier League. The big­gest sport­ing shock of my life­time, and it’s only my team.”

TV pre­sen­ter Lineker had promised to front BBC’S Match of the Day in his un­der­pants if his old club won it but few peo­ple thought he would ever have to go through with it, even when they opened a seven-point lead with two months re­main­ing.

“All sea­son long peo­ple kept say­ing they’ll lose the next one, lose the next one but they kept win­ning and churn­ing out re­sults,” said Chelsea skip­per John Terry af­ter the out­go­ing cham­pi­ons’ fight­back from 2-0 down ended Spurs’ hopes.

“To do what they’ve done this year has been un­be­liev­able and given hope to the smaller teams.”

Chelsea fans, who have a soft spot for Ranieri de­spite him be­ing sacked 12 years ago af­ter owner Ro­man Abramovich ar­rived, chanted his name as the clock ticked down on his first top-flight ti­tle in nearly 30 years of coach­ing around Europe.

“It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing and I’m so happy for ev­ery­one,” said 64-year-old Ranieri, who was ap­pointed be­fore the start of the sea­son to suc­ceed Nigel Pear­son.

“I never ex­pected this when I ar­rived. I’m a prag­matic man, I just wanted to win match af­ter match and help my play­ers to im­prove week af­ter week. Never did I think too much about where it would take us.

“The play­ers have been fan­tas­tic. Their fo­cus, their de­ter­mi­na­tion, their spirit has made this pos­si­ble. Ev­ery game they fight for each other and I love to see this in my play­ers. They de­serve to be cham­pi­ons.”

His squad gath­ered to watch the game at the home of striker Jamie Vardy, named Foot­baller of the Year ear­lier on Mon­day, and video phone footage posted by de­fender Chris­tian Fuchs showed them ex­plod­ing with joy at the fi­nal whis­tle.

Cap­tain Wes Mor­gan, the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of their as­ton­ish­ing 12-month trans­for­ma­tion, said it was their in­domitable team spirit that saw them through.

“Ev­ery­one’s worked so hard for this, no­body be­lieved we could do it, but here we are, Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons and de­servedly so,” Mor­gan told the club web­site.

Mor­gan, who spent 10 years in the lower di­vi­sions with Nottingham For­est and tasted the Pre­mier League for the first time aged 30 last sea­son, added: “I’ve never known a spirit like the one be­tween these boys. We’re like broth­ers.

Peo­ple saw it last sea­son when ev­ery­one ex­pected us to be rel­e­gated, but we fought back to prove peo­ple wrong.

“We’ve built on the mo­men­tum, but I don’t think any­one be­lieved it would come to this.

“Satur­day can’t come quickly enough. I can’t wait to get my hands on the tro­phy,” added the cen­tre-back, who will hoist it in front of the club’s fans in the home game against Ever­ton.

Vardy, who has been trans­formed from a shot-shy striker last sea­son into an Eng­land in­ter­na­tional, said: “It’s the big­gest achieve­ment in the his­tory of a great club and we all feel priv­i­leged to be part of it.

“It’s even more spe­cial to have done it with these lads. Ev­ery minute of hard work we’ve put in on the train­ing pitch has been worth it for this mo­ment.”

Mid­fielder Andy King added: “I thought I’d seen every­thing with this club, but I never thought I’d see this.

“The story of where this team has come from to get to this point has been all over the world re­cently and I think the lads de­serve great credit for the way they’ve taken it in their stride, stayed fo­cused and kept de­liv­er­ing re­sults - es­pe­cially with a great side like Spurs chas­ing us so hard.”

Tot­ten­ham boss Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino, who must have thought the race would go into the fi­nal two games when his side led 2-0 at half­time on Mon­day, said: “First of all I con­grat­u­late Le­ices­ter and Clau­dio Ranieri and his play­ers and sup­port­ers. It was a mas­sive sea­son for them - we just need to be stronger next sea­son.”

Manch­ester City cap­tain Vin­cent Kom­pany said: “Congratulations to the new Cham­pi­ons of Eng­land, Le­ices­ter City. Re­spect.”

Fix­tures May 7: Nor­wich City v Manch­ester United, West Ham United v Swansea City, Crys­tal Palace v Stoke City, Sun­der­land v Chelsea, As­ton Villa v New­cas­tle United, Bournemouth v West Bromwich Al­bion, Le­ices­ter City v Ever­ton. May 8: Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur v Southamp­ton, Liver­pool v Wat­ford, Manch­ester City v Arse­nal. May 10: West Ham United v Manch­ester United. — Reuters

Le­ices­ter city fans cel­e­brate their Pre­mier League ti­tle win outside the club’s sta­dium on Mon­day.

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