Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
Leicester City Should Be Your Favorite Club
In the modern footballing world where success is most often dictated by money, stories like that of Leicester City should be celebrated even more. Leicester City represents what it means to build success the right way, no billionaire rebrand, no cash influx, just fighting through the depths of the pyramid system.
On May 15th, 2021, Leicester City celebrated a monumental FA Cup Win by dedicating the trophy to the club's former owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who passed away in a tragic helicopter crash in October of 2018.
The FA Cup victory came as more validation of the club's model of building an English footballing powerhouse from the basics with no shortcut by the means of a financial handout.
The most famous anecdote in the story of Leicester City is, of course, the improbable Premier League championship of 2015-16 in the face of 5000-1 odds in the preseason. That Championship marked the club's first top division league trophy in their 137-year history. It also came a season after they finished just six points out of the relegation zone, and there were real fears that the club's stay in one of Europe's most prestigious leagues would flame out after just a couple of seasons.
Two years before that, they were in the second division for a fifth straight year. And seven years before that Premier League win, they had sunk as low as the third division of English Football.
Yet here we are in 2021, and Leicester City has proved that they belong among the best teams in England, finishing in the top-5 both this season and the last. The FA Cup trophy was more evidence of this status, all while giving the footballing world a new template on how to rise to the top without billions been spent by a new wealthy owner.
Perhaps, it is also most fitting that Chelsea was the club Leicester City defeated to win the club's first FA Cup Trophy because Chelsea is an antithesis for what Leicester City stands for.
Where Leicester City has built their rise through hard work and perseverance, Chelsea fueled their rise with endless spending. Fans may not remember this, but Chelsea was largely an irrelevant club until Russian millionaire Roman Abramovich took over in 2003.
Before that 2003 takeover, Chelsea only had one first division league trophy to their name in the club's 97 years, and that came in 1955. Since the takeover, Chelsea has won 5 Premier League trophies in those 18 years, skyrocketing from mediocrity to one of Europe's elite clubs.
In fact, since 2000, despite Abrahomovic taking over three years after the start of the decade, Chelsea ranks first in the world for most money spent in the transfer market. Over two billion in transfer fees, more than Real Madrid in second, Barcelona in third, and Manchester City in fourth. Evidence of a club whose wealthy owner was determined to reach success by cutting corners and simply buying the best players.
Manchester City is another team who rose to prominence after a financial takeover, going from two league trophies in 128 years before their 2008 takeover to five premier league trophies in the 13 years since. Manchester City basically took the Chelsea model and perfected it. Manchester City has spent close to 2 billion since that 2008 takeover, far more than any other club in that period.
Meanwhile, Leicester City has fought and scrapped and clawed their way to relevance on hard work, no financial handouts.
In terms of net spend, over the last five years, the club ranks 11th in the premier league, behind clubs like Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, and Aston Villa. Youri Tielemans, the man who scored the game-winner in the final, is the club's record purchase. Eight different English clubs have a record transfer fee that exceeds what Leicester paid for Tillemans.
The best players in the club's history were all acquired for cheap fees. N'Golo Kante was bought for $10 million and sold for $40 million, Riyad Mahrez was bought for $550 thousand and sold for $75 million, Harry Maguire was bought for $16 million and sold for $96 million, Kasper Schmeichel was bought for $2 million, and Jamie Vardy was bought for $1 million.
So in the absence of money, how have Leicester accomplished this? The key is great scouting, bargain hunting, and a club culture deeply tied to hard work and perseverance. They have provided a template that shows that with a great culture, a small club can still rise to the top and find success without cutting any corners.
That is a story that should be celebrated more than it already is. Leicester City should be everyone's second favorite club unless you're already a Leicester City fan, which makes you the envy of the footballing world.
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