Leicester City’s exultant players and beaming manager Claudio Ranieri went back to work in a daze on Tuesday as the sports world saluted their outlandish Premier League triumph as the perfect example of the “magic of football.”
At their training ground in Leicester, sleepless but bright-eyed players continued in party mood as, amid much festivity, training took on a festive air while the club’s Thai owner flew in by helicopter to congratulate them.
Meanwhile, the football world, led by new FIFA President Gianni Infantino, clamoured to hail the perpetrators of one of the sport’s most incredible tales.
“It’s one of these beautiful football stories that only football can write, that nobody would have believed possible at the beginning of the season,” declared Infantino. “This is the magic of football.”
Everybody concurred with this sentiment, be it in Madrid, where even combatants in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final paid tribute to the Foxes, or Rome, where the Italian Prime Minister wanted to salute the city’s popular son Ranieri.
“The greatest achievement in the history of English soccer was led by an Italian. Fantastic Mr Ranieri,” PM Matteo Renzi tweeted.
“They’ve had an amazing season. Miracles don’t exist in football; it’s a just reward for their year of hard work,” Zinedine Zidane, the French great who manages Real Madrid, added before their second leg with Manchester City.
Back at the Premier League headquarters in London, chief executive chairman Richard Scudamore told the BBC that “it’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.
“Nobody saw it coming. So here we are, it’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.”
That feeling was still coursing through Leicester’s players, who had all gathered at star striker Jamie Vardy’s house on Monday night to watch nearest challengers Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea, the result which sealed the title.
After singing and bouncing up and down for the cameras during desultory training, they all headed to one of Ranieri’s favourite pizza restaurants for lunch but still had time to let a Vardy lookalike fan join the team bus to pose with his hero.
Ranieri, who had missed Monday’s fun and games with his team for a quiet celebration with his wife at home, embraced his players at training and also the club’s Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, after the billionaire disembarked from his helicopter.
Srivaddhanaprabha’s son Aiyawatt provided the best news for Leicester fans when he gave a TV interview to Thai television on Monday night, insisting that the club had no intention of selling any of their best players.
“We are not a team who produces players to be developed later by other teams.” he said.
There is no chance of the celebrations ceasing any time soon before Saturday, when captain Wes Morgan will pick up the trophy at the Foxes’ last home game of the season against Everton at the King Power Stadium.
“I can’t wait to lift the trophy and get my hands on it. I am going to try and hold back the tears, it is going to be very emotional, it is the biggest moment of my life,” said Morgan, who like so many of his team mates, has been transformed from a supposed journeyman into a colossus.
“It is safe to say I never thought I would be in this position now. The journey we’ve been on is fantastic. It’s an achievement that might not be achieved again.”
Ranieri, the mastermind of this achievement, was being hailed back home, with Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon declaring: “Thanks Mister, because you’ve shown that one must not stop dreaming.”