On 6 February, Leicester City beat Manchester City at the Etihad and for the first time, it become legitimately plausible that Leicester could win the league. In the days, weeks and months that followed, many people who know more about football than me have offered theories about how a 5000-1 outsider could win the Premier League. For all that theorising, Leicester remains a phenomenon that makes little rational sense. This is a piece that was written in the aftermath of that City result.
In the weeks that followed, a conversation about doping in football has started, feebly. The Sunday Times Insight team broke a story claiming an unnamed Leicester City player was among a group of athletes in Britain had been given performance enhancing drugs prescribed by Dr. Mark Bonar. Leicester denied this allegation, as did all the Premier League clubs mentioned in the report.
This is a story about struggling to enjoy what Leicester have done, because what Leicester have done makes no sense.
6 February 2016
I felt an unexpected tilt in my emotions while watching the top of the Premier League clash this afternoon --- from hope to disbelief to outright skepticism. I like Cinderella and I don't fancy City, but it was difficult to parse.
On 6 February 2016, a team with Robert Huth and Danny Drinkwater beat one of the richest football teams ever assembled with ease on their own patch to go six points clear in the world's richest sports league.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) February 6, 2016
The overriding lesson of the evolution of the Premier League is that only teams with the economic might of medium-sized Latin American economies have a chance to contend for the title. The overriding lesson of sportspectating over the last 25 years is that when something is too good to be true, it usually is. And in this tug of war, I get conflicted about Leicester City.
In football terms, the underdog is a mostly bygone notion kept alive by 5Live 'Magic of the Cup' packages. The era where a Nottingham Forest could win Division 1 in their first year promoted is long gone. The victories for the little guy tend to be fleeting. Wigan winning the FA Cup in 2013 is about as revolutionary as English football gets. Exeter drawing with injury-ravaged Liverpool is about the most you can hope for.
But after a blip around Christmas, Leicester have regained form and must now surely be Premier League favourites. A team managed by a man who had become a punchline about a football manager who gets sacked once a year. A team whose main striker played non-league football four years ago. A team whose best player was signed from Ligue 2 for less than a million euro. A team whose defensive foundations are built around Robert Huth and Wes Morgan.
It is the most incredible story of post-'92 English football. It feels, they all say, like a Hollywood movie. And there's something so likeable about Ranieri in his Puma hat in the rain, about the tireless work that Okazaki does, about the lithe Wes Morgan shutting down uberrich brats like Raheem Sterling. Even casino racist Jamie Vardy seems sorta heroic. I watched Leicester incredibly stave off relegation last season under Pearson and found their team spirit admirable. But it seemed like staving off relegation would always be the sum of their ambitions. Nine months later - the time it takes a sperm and an egg to become a life - they are atop the Premier League.
I should be giddy but I'm not. Of course, Leicester could not be doping: a look across their backline would confirm that. But one of the legacies of systematic doping in cycling and athletics is that it has killed romance in all other sports. I have acquired this voice in my head that sounds eerily like Paul Kimmage who talks to me any time I watch NFL or running or cycling. 'Something's wrong here,' it says. I was in America in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris's home run record. How hopelessly naive it all seems now.
So I'd like to sarcastically thank all of the dopers who've ruined this great Leicester City run for me.
Because there may never be another Leiceser City.
— DANNY SIMPSON (@dannysimpson) February 6, 2016