Belfast Telegraph

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

By Steven Beacom

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.

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".

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