As Tottenham Hotspur lost their heads, and Leicester City finally won the league, it said so much about Claudio Ranieri’s personality that one of his first acts as champion was to call Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink to thank him.
The Italian was not crying but his voice was trembling and all he could really come out with was “thank you” five times.
That is entirely understandable, especially given Ranieri’s career, and how this was a first title that even he must have felt would never come. This then was a show of emotion that many expected, but perhaps not in the way some others expected. Just a few weeks ago, one high-profile football figure was privately discussing the season, but still dismissing Leicester’s chances of delivering the title.
“They will not win it,” he said. “Ranieri will get too emotional again.”
The clear implication was that would influence the mindset of the Leicester squad and spark what would have had to have been one of the biggest blow-ups in European history.
The show of emotion did come, but only after Leicester had so impressively stayed strong to produce what might be the greatest feat in football history.
The long and short of it is that the modern economics of the game were supposed to make this impossible.
The human realities proved otherwise. In fact, Spurs’ 2-2 draw at Chelsea only put further focus on exactly how and why Leicester pulled it off. Mauricio Pochettino’s side were guilty of everything they needed the leaders to be guilty of. A previously rampant Spurs lost a lead and then lost their heads, allowing the emotion and nature of the situation to get to them.
That was damning for this season but need not necessarily be damning in the long term. This can be something they learn from, and was merely a show of inexperience.
That, however, is what was also so impressive about Leicester. They had no more experience of any of this than Spurs but still remained so resolute.
It is just one other aspect of their campaign that defies logic and expectation, feeding the improbability of it all. Just look at how much was against Leicester, effectively meaning that it is impossible to exaggerate how unlikely this was.
This was a club who had never won a title before, and had the relatively limited resources to match that history. Essentially, clubs with their wage bills barely win knock-out competitions any more, let alone full leagues. Their squad was also filled with the type of players that you would expect from one that is estimated to be just the 17th best paid in the division. Mostly journeymen in their late twenties or early thirties, the majority had done little in their careers, and the core players used barely had any title medals between them.
Ranieri, meanwhile, just had a series of second-place finishes.
There is obviously far more to the Leicester story than just the Italian - especially given the sophistication and intelligence of the club’s backroom team - but he is a fitting figurehead for more reasons than his likeable and honourable personality and the mere fact he is manager.
His own personal redemption just fits so well with the overall story. And, just as Leicester have gone from near relegation to the title, he has gone from what was probably the worst failure of his career, with Greece, to an achievement that no one could possibly hope to match. It is incredible.
It is also worth reflecting on Ranieri and his current mindset in that regard. At 64 years old, with 28 years in the game and no major medals, he was considered past it, finished, set for the sack. Vindications like this just don’t really happen at this point of such careers. It completely alters the perception of him.
He and Leicester have completely altered the perception of the game.
It is impossible not to be happy for him. He deserves any show of emotion.