Leicester change 'order' as TV cash looms

LONDON • The Premier League season's defining quirk was that, with a vast tide of television money set to flood England's top flight, Leicester City's triumph showed that wealth is not everything.

While Manchester City and Manchester United's squads cost a combined estimated total of £800 million (S$1.58 billion), Leicester's title-winning squad barely exceeded the £50-million mark.

In the context of the £5.14 billion television deal due to kick in next season, their fairy-tale 5,000-1 success suggested that it is no longer about how much money you spend, but how you spend it.

"I've grown up always believing the big clubs, with the most money, win," said former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp.

"Even Blackburn, when they won the title (in 1995), spent a lot and had the best players."

While the feats of Jamie Vardy (£1 million), Riyad Mahrez (£400,000) and N'Golo Kante (£5.6 million) showed a new way of spending, Leicester's football revealed a different way of winning.

In an age when many teams continue to worship at the altar of 'tiki-taka', Claudio Ranieri's well-drilled, hard-running side averaged 44.8 per cent of possession - the third-lowest in the league - and had a pass completion rate of 70.5 per cent - the league's second-lowest.

With Tottenham Hotspur, another high-intensity team, challenging for the title under Mauricio Pochettino, Football Association chairman Greg Dyke was moved to exclaim: "The old order has broken."

The Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year told its own story, with Leicester and Tottenham contributing four players each.

Except Harry Kane, the division's 25-goal top scorer, who came through Tottenham's youth system, all were signed for fees dwarfed by the £49 million that City spent on Raheem Sterling.

West Ham's Dimitri Payet, another Team of the Year inclusion, was a relative snip at £10.7 million.

The French playmaker inspired Slaven Bilic's side to seventh place, with Ronald Koeman's Southampton, fellow canny spenders, provisionally fifth ahead of United's postponed game against Bournemouth.

The big clubs met with failure of varying stripes. But, emboldened by their TV gains, they can be expected to flex their muscles in the close-season transfer window and former Leicester manager Martin O'Neill believes that they will all come back stronger.

"Maybe it's a wake-up call," he said. "I think the big teams might feel it was one year they slipped up in and they might become very strong again. Money talks in this business."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Leicester change 'order' as TV cash looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe