The greatest party in Leicester’s history got going early at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. A spine-tingling performance by opera singer Andrea Bocelli set the mood that continued right through a comfortable 3-1 victory over Everton before their most remarkable title triumph became a reality.
Wes Morgan, who didn’t play in the Premier League for the first time until he was 30 years old was presented with the trophy along with manager Claudio Ranieri, the 64-year-old Italian who had previously garnered a reputation as a serial runner-up. It was the perfect encapsulation of Leicester’s fairytale story to coronate a first championship in the club’s 132-year history.
From club captain and manager, the trophy was passed around a squad who surely could never even dreamt of this moment.
There was Jamie Vardy, who opened the scoring on Saturday just five minutes into his return from suspension and added Leicester’s third from the penalty spot to move onto 24 Premier League goals for the season, just one behind Golden Boot leader Harry Kane. Vardy is now an England international and a champion of the world’s richest league just four years after playing in non-league.
And midfielder Andy King, who laid on the assist for Vardy before scoring the second, becoming the first man to hoist aloft the League One, Championship and Premier League trophy after rising through the divisions with the only club he has known as a professional.
All down the line, there were incredible stories. Kasper Schmeichel, who as a boy watched his dad, Peter, collect five Premier League winners’ medals with Manchester United. Danny Drinkwater and Danny Simpson, both deemed not up to the standard required at Manchester United as youngsters and who surely though their chance to land such prizes has gone. The list of unlikely champions continued.
The 32,000 inside the King Power Stadium who had got a hold of the hottest ticket in the city’s history would have been similarly disbelieving at what was unfolding before them. Even with five days to get used to the idea since the 5,000-1 outsiders completed their ultimate underdog story, it remained no less astonishing.
The start of the day’s proceedings was equally surreal. Andrea Bocelli had contacted his compatriot Ranieri to offer his services having been one of the millions across the globe captivated by Leicester’s miracle title. And the Italian stood in the center of pitch side-by-side with Ranieri to deliver a captivating rendition of opera-soccer crossover aria Nessun Dorma. Not even the dark clouds overhead could dampen the atmosphere.
Once the incidental part of the day, the match, got underway, Everton were only too willing to play the part of the most gracious party guest. As videos from Vardy’s house on Monday showed, Leicester enjoyed their title celebrations. Yet they still had more than enough to beat an Everton team concluding a desperately disappointing season.
Monday’s party host Vardy got Saturday’s affair up and running by turning in King’s cross. King himself doubled the lead in the 33rd minute when a cross from PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez fell into his path 12 yards out.
As much as the day was about Leicester’s coronation, the way in which Everton simply rolled over raises yet more doubts about manager Roberto Martinez’s ability to keep his job beyond this summer. Vardy was brought down by young defender Matthew Pennington and smashed home the penalty 20 minutes into the second half. He should have had a hat-trick, too, when Darron Gibson took out Jeffrey Schlupp with an inexplicable tackle. This time, though, Vardy blasted over the bar.
Kevin Mirallas even pulled a goal back for Everton, but it could do nothing to dent the most unlikely celebration in the sporting world. It will be a party that will go on all summer until another chapter of their extraordinary story unfolds in the Champions League. As the Leicester fans sang, "Barcelona, we're coming for you."