EPL: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and other key players who played major roles in Leicester City`s title success
Leicester`s talisman, the hard-running and prolific Vardy has become the snarling face of Ranieri`s team.
London: For all the headline-grabbing exploits of top scorer Jamie Vardy and twinkle-toed winger Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City`s fairytale Premier League title success has been very much a collective effort.
AFP Sport highlights five players who have played major roles in securing the east Midlands club`s first ever top-flight title.
A recent internet meme asserted that since Liverpool last won a league title, Peter Schmeichel had joined Manchester United, won five Premier League titles, retired, had a son and his son, Kasper, was on the verge of winning the league with Leicester. It was not entirely accurate -- Schmeichel Jnr was actually born in 1986, four years before the last of Liverpool`s 18 championship crowns -- but it highlighted the remarkable goalkeeping lineage in the Schmeichel family. Whereas Peter was an acknowledged great, Kasper has taken his time to reach the top, with a formative stint at Manchester City followed by a succession of loans and short-term spells before he arrived at Leicester in 2011. Now 29, the Denmark international does not possess his father`s extraordinary physicality, but he has been an ever-present for Leicester this season, helping his low-scoring side record 15 vital clean sheets.
The rock at the heart of the Leicester defence, Morgan joined the club from local rivals Nottingham Forest in January 2012 and was quickly installed as captain. Despite lacking pace, he is an authoritative presence and with Robert Huth has formed an old-school central defensive partnership founded upon strength, astute positioning and aerial dominance. The Jamaica international, 32, scored a key header in a 1-0 win over Southampton in April, during a run of seven clean sheets in nine games that effectively secured the title.
A £5.6 million ($8.2 million, 7.2 million euros) capture from French side Caen last year, Kante has astonished observers with his relentless energy, driving runs and extraordinary knack for recovering possession. Legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson described him as "by far the best player in the Premier League" and he was shortlisted for the Professional Footballers` Association (PFA) Player of the Year award. He won his first France cap in March and is a near-certainty for a place in Didier Deschamps`s Euro 2016 squad.
The impish inspiration behind Leicester`s success, Mahrez symbolises the fairytale journey that the club have overtaken over the past 12 months. Signed from Le Havre for just £400,000 in January 2014, the rakish, velvet-footed Algerian winger flitted in and out of the team 12 months ago as Leicester fought to stay in the division, but this season he has been a sensation. His 17 goals -- including stunning strikes against Chelsea and Manchester City, and a hat-trick against Swansea City -- and 11 assists set up countless wins and saw him become the first African to be elected as England`s Player of the Year by his peers. "Riyad is our light," said manager Claudio Ranieri. "When he switches on, Leicester change colour."
Leicester`s talisman, the hard-running and prolific Vardy has become the snarling face of Ranieri`s team. The wiry Yorkshireman`s rags-to-riches tale has seen him rise from non-league obscurity to top-flight record-breaker, England international and Football Writers` Association (FWA) Player of the Year in just four years, attracting the attention of Hollywood scriptwriters. Despite scoring 22 goals, he looks poised to miss out on the Golden Boot, but he created Premier League history in the autumn by scoring in 11 consecutive games. Rough edges, however, remain -- he had to apologise after being caught on camera racially goading an Asian man in a casino prior to the start of the season and missed two games of the run-in after being sent off for diving in a 2-2 draw with West Ham United and then angrily berating the referee.