So what now? When Leicester has been cleared of empty bottles, seven Tottenham players have been banned and a man who looks vaguely like Jamie Vardy stops dreaming of making his fortune as an impersonator, what will we see in 2016/17 as a consequence of Leicester’s remarkable triumph? Any or all of the below may happen…
1) A team wins on the cheap? The big clubs will spend bigger…
As ridiculous as it sounds, the likely reaction to a £57m squad winning the Premier League ahead of Tottenham (£159m), Arsenal (£231m), Liverpool (£260m), Chelsea (£280m), Manchester United (£395m) and Manchester City (£415m) is that those vanquished clubs will spend even more in a bid to ensure such an embarrassment of richest clubs does not happen again.
Hidden amongst those figures is the fact that three of those six clubs had a lower net spend than Leicester last summer as Tottenham balanced books, Liverpool tightened belts after the excesses of 2014 and Arsenal eschewed buying anybody not wearing a helmet. Even champions Chelsea reacted to winning the title with the transfer equivalent of two halves of lager.
This will not happen again. With new or newish managers at Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and possibly Manchester United enjoying their first summer transfer window, we can expect more than two clubs to break the £100m mark this summer. What do you do when a provincial club wins the title on the cheap? Spend more, of course. That’ll teach the uppity buggers.
2) More experienced, older managers to be appointed?
Maybe this has already happened. The last three managers appointed by Premier League clubs were 55, 60 and 69. The 46-year-old Antonio Conte will buck that trend when he officially takes over at Chelsea but mid to lower-table clubs have perhaps begun to look towards more experienced managers after the recent failures of younger, more dynamic coaches like Garry Monk, Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde. ‘Random old Italian man’ was how we described Francesco Guidolin on his appointment, and it’s difficult to believe that Swansea were not influenced by Leicester’s success under the less random but similarly old and Italian Ranieri.
If Everton sack Roberto Martinez and appoint Manuel Pellegrini (62) we will be convinced there’s been a bona fide shift towards the veteran.
3) Bottom-half clubs to twist rather than stick?
Of the seven bottom-half clubs not relegated at the end of last season, four stuck with their manager. All four of those clubs are still in the bottom half of the table, with Aston Villa relegated, Sunderland in the relegation zone, West Brom stagnating and Everton once again the infuriating under-achievers. One of the three clubs who changed manager have just been crowned the champions; another are in an unlikely sixth place ahead of Southampton, Liverpool and Chelsea. The other is Newcastle but the lesson here is that Steve McClaren is never an upgrade, even when your starting point is John Carver.
Should Sam Allardyce once again feel uncomfortable even if Sunderland survive, amidst the cries of ‘be careful what you wish for’? Should Tony Pulis be wondering if standing still will cost him another job? Will Watford do to Quique Sánchez Flores what Everton should perhaps have mercifully done to Martinez three months ago? At what point will the possibility of ‘doing a Leicester’ become a stronger motivation than the fear of ‘doing a Leeds’?
4) More lower-league players to be bought by Premier League clubs?
Although Leicester have only bought three Championship players (Leonardo Ulloa, Danny Simpson and Demerai Gray) as a Premier League club, over half of their squad has played lower-league football, including of course Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and captain Wes Morgan. We have already read headlines suggesting that clubs are chasing the ‘new Jamie Vardy’, but will this actually happen? Will Arsenal look at Nahki Wells? Will Liverpool take a chance on Alan Judge? Will they f***. But Sunderland may look at Jonathan Kodija and West Brom may enhance their centre-half collection with Danny Batth.
The success of Leicester, Bournemouth and Watford this season with players like Danny Drinkwater, Simon Francis and Troy Deeney should at least convince Middlesbrough or Brighton that they need not spend heavily on Premier League experience, and perhaps one club will take a cheap chance on Will Grigg rather than a £13.5m punt on Oumar Niasse. Leicester’s title win may yet be excellent news for Oliver Norwood and Tom Cairney.
5) Leicester players to be targeted?
“We don’t want to sell anybody. If some player doesn’t want to stay with us I don’t want unhappy people,” said Claudio Ranieri on Tuesday. It’s unlikely that N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez are even close to unhappy right now, but when the hangover clears and their agents are talking about Real Madrid, PSG or Arsenal? When the realisation sets in that their stock may never be close to this high again?
For once we agree with Paul Merson when he says: “I worry Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante could leave. I don’t see a problem with Jamie Vardy, as I don’t think anyone will pay a lot of money for him at 29 years old, but the other two stars are a worry. Kante will be at the Euros and his France team-mates will be going: ‘Oh, my manager wants you’. That’s how it works and he’s going to have his head twisted. I’d be shocked if those two were there next season.”
As would we. But we suspect Ranieri will have absolutely no problems keeping hold of Robert Huth and Danny Simpson; most envious managers will know this was a triumph of the collective with two outstanding protagonists whose sizeable talents are transferable; the rest will not be targeted by any other club who can offer Champions League football.
Roll on 2016/17. We’re excited already.