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Rodgers and O'Neill applaud spirit and romance of Leicester City story

By Steven Beacom

Published 04/05/2016

Memories: Martin O’Neill lifts one of two League Cups won with Leicester
Memories: Martin O’Neill lifts one of two League Cups won with Leicester

Former Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill says the title triumph of his old club shows romance is alive and well in English football and ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has hailed the togetherness of the Foxes that took them to the top of the Premier League table and kept them there.

The two Northern Ireland men were among a host of famous football personalities congratulating Claudio Ranieri and his side on their stunning championship victory, secured on Monday night after nearest challengers Tottenham drew 2-2 at Chelsea.

Leicester City fans celebrate in the Market Tavern in Leicester after seeing their side crowned Barclays Premier League champions following Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 drew against Chelsea. PA
Leicester City fans celebrate in the Market Tavern in Leicester after seeing their side crowned Barclays Premier League champions following Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 drew against Chelsea. PA
A Chelsea fan holds up a banner celebrating Leicester City being crowned champions following the 2-2 draw during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Chelsea fans hold up banners celebrating Leicester City being crowned champions following the 2-2 draw during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans celebrate as their team becomes Premier League champions after watching the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. Spurs' failure to win against Chelsea tonight sees Leicester City claim their first ever top flight title. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans celebrate as their team becomes Premier League champions after watching the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. Spurs' failure to win against Chelsea tonight sees Leicester City claim their first ever top flight title. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Leicester City fans celebrate in the Market Tavern in Leicester after seeing their side crowned Barclays Premier League champions following Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 drew against Chelsea. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans celebrate as their team becomes Premier League champions after watching the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. Spurs' failure to win against Chelsea tonight sees Leicester City claim their first ever top flight title. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Leicester City fans celebrate in the Market Tavern in Leicester after seeing their side crowned Barclays Premier League champions following Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 drew against Chelsea. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Chelsea fans hold up banners celebrating Leicester City being crowned champions following the 2-2 draw during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans watch the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. If Spurs fail to win against Chelsea, Leicester City will become Premier League champions. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans celebrate as their team becomes Premier League champions after watching the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. Spurs' failure to win against Chelsea tonight sees Leicester City claim their first ever top flight titel. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans celebrate Chelsea's second goal as they watch the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. If Spurs fail to win against Chelsea, Leicester City will become Premier League champions. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02: Leicester City fans watch the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. If Spurs fail to win against Chelsea, Leicester City will become Premier League champions. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Leicester City fans take a picture in Hogarths pub in Leicester during the Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur match. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Leicester City fans react in Hogarths pub in Leicester after Chelsea's Eden Hazard scores the equalising goal against Tottenham Hotspur. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Leicester City fans react in Hogarths pub in Leicester after Chelsea's Eden Hazard scores the equalising goal against Tottenham Hotspur. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Leicester City fans react in Hogarths pub in Leicester after Chelsea miss a goal-scoring opportunity against Tottenham Hotspur. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Leicester City fans react after a missed chance for Chelsea during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in a pub in central Leicester, eastern England, on May 2, 2016. Leicester City's remarkable football season could see them crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball on May 2 if second-placed Tottenham Hotspur fail to keep the Premier League title race alive. Anything less than a Spurs victory away to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1900GMT) -- a ground where they haven't enjoyed a league win for 26 years -- will see Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, complete a stunning triumph. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Leicester City fans react after a missed chance for Chelsea during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in a pub in central Leicester, eastern England, on May 2, 2016. Leicester City's remarkable football season could see them crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball on May 2 if second-placed Tottenham Hotspur fail to keep the Premier League title race alive. Anything less than a Spurs victory away to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1900GMT) -- a ground where they haven't enjoyed a league win for 26 years -- will see Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, complete a stunning triumph. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Leicester City fans react after Chelsea scored to pull one goal back during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in a pub in central Leicester, eastern England, on May 2, 2016. Leicester City's remarkable football season could see them crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball on May 2 if second-placed Tottenham Hotspur fail to keep the Premier League title race alive. Anything less than a Spurs victory away to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1900GMT) -- a ground where they haven't enjoyed a league win for 26 years -- will see Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, complete a stunning triumph. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A Leicester City fan reacts as he watches after Tottenham score in the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in a pub in central Leicester, eastern England, on May 2, 2016. Leicester City's remarkable football season could see them crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball on May 2 if second-placed Tottenham Hotspur fail to keep the Premier League title race alive. Anything less than a Spurs victory away to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1900GMT) -- a ground where they haven't enjoyed a league win for 26 years -- will see Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, complete a stunning triumph. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A Leicester City fan reacts as he watches after Tottenham score in the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in a pub in central Leicester, eastern England, on May 2, 2016. Leicester City's remarkable football season could see them crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball on May 2 if second-placed Tottenham Hotspur fail to keep the Premier League title race alive. Anything less than a Spurs victory away to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (1900GMT) -- a ground where they haven't enjoyed a league win for 26 years -- will see Claudio Ranieri's men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, complete a stunning triumph. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur and Nemanja Matic of Chelsea battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Leicester City fans react in Hogarths pub in Leicester after Chelsea miss a goal-scoring opportunity against Tottenham Hotspur. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-Min (L) scores their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Leicester-based musicians film a video for their latest music project "Fearless" in central Leicester, eastern England, on 2 May, 2016. The song has been recorded to celebrate Leciester City Football Club's performance in the 2015/16 season of the Premier League. AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea's English defender Gary Cahill celebrates scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Leicester City fans, who are facing a nail-biting wait to see if their side pulls off one of the greatest comebacks in English football history and lifts the Premier League trophy. PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (left) and Chelsea's John Obi Mikel battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Chelsea. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
A Thai supporter of Leicester City reacts as people watch the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United on the TV, in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 1, 2016. The teams drew 1-1. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (left) grapples with Chelsea's John Terry during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PA
Leciester City fans watch the Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur game at Hogarths pub in Leicester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur splits open the Chelsea defence to score the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Leciester City fans watch the Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur game at Hogarths pub in Leicester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Pedro chases the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (centre) battles with Chelsea's Gary Cahill (right) and Branislav Ivanovic during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 2, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Chelsea. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Tottenham Hotspur's Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld (front) heads the ball in front of Chelsea's English defender Gary Cahill (back) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: A Chelsea fan holds up a banner in support of Leicester City's title challenge during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur takes a throw in during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino (L) talks with Chelsea's Dutch interim manager Guus Hiddink (R) on the touchlinen during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's English defender Kyle Walker (R) holds off Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Pedro (L) to play the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea's John Terry before the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (left) and Mousa Dembele (right) before the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PA
A fan wears a mask of Chelsea's John Terry in the stands before the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. PA
The Spurs players warm up prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Chelsea's Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic walks on the pitch before kick off of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on May 2, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
The Chelsea mascots Bridget and Stamford pose prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Mounted Police officers patrol prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
A general view of the stadium prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Before Ranieri came on the scene, O'Neill was previously Leicester's most successful boss having led them to two League Cup successes and European football in the process.

Republic of Ireland boss O'Neill said: "Leicester's title win is absolutely extraordinary. To go and win the Premier League in this day and age when money seems to count, it is absolutely fabulous. Romanticism is still alive in football and that is great news for everyone.

"Leicester City have shown the way, shown how it can be done and great credit to all of them - to the players, the manager who has been terrific, the back room staff who have assembled the team. It's been a team effort from start to finish. I don't think we will see it again in our lifetime," added the ex-Northern Ireland skipper.

Rodgers, who was close to guiding Liverpool to the title in 2014, stated: "Leicester have clearly been the best team. I think they are a wonderful example of hard work, team spirit, organisation and quality.

"They have shown what can be achieved when everyone sticks together and I think the manager Claudio Ranieri deserves a huge amount of credit. As the season has gone on, his role, the importance of it has been growing all the time. I think he has been absolutely top, top class, as have the players."

Asked if Leicester's glory was a triumph for good coaching over chequebook management, Rodgers said: "I think it's everything. I think it's the culture of the club, it's a big credit to the recruitment guys as well, they have brought in some top players that maybe some others might not have taken a chance on.

"Players like Robert Huth, who I worked with when I was coaching at Chelsea. He was always a top player. He moved away from Chelsea to have a career in the game, with Middlesbrough and Stoke and now he is doing great things at Leicester.

"The likes of N'Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have also been outstanding."

Former Leicester and Northern Ireland defender Gerry Taggart commented: "I've watched Leicester a lot this season and the way they play football is good for the game.

"Also the backroom staff at Leicester City are first class, they've spent a lot of years trying to perfect what goes on behind the scenes.

"This is as much about them as it is about the players or the manager."

Jose Mourinho, who led Chelsea to the title last season, sent his congratulations to Ranieri and his all-conquering team.

"I want to congratulate everyone connected to Leicester City; players, staff, owners and fans. I lost my title to Claudio Ranieri and it is with incredible emotion that I live this magic moment in his career," said Mourinho in a statement. When the 'Special One' took charge at Stamford Bridge for the first time in 2004, it was Ranieri who he replaced.

Alan Shearer, who won the Premier League with Blackburn in 1995, claimed the Leicester story was "the biggest and best ever".

Belfast Telegraph

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