Lineker, Carragher and others react to Leicester

Matt Stead

Former striker Gary Lineker believes Leicester achieved the impossible after the Foxes were crowned Barclays Premier League champions on Monday evening.

Claudio Ranieri‘s unheralded side were confirmed as title winners after Eden Hazard’s 83rd-minute equaliser earned Chelsea a 2-2 draw with Tottenham that means Spurs cannot now overhaul the Foxes.

Lineker will now have to present an episode of Match of the Day next season in his underpants following a pledge made on Twitter after the Foxes’ 2-1 win over Chelsea in December.

Lineker told Radio 5Live: “It’s extraordinary. Sat watching with three of my boys. Couple of Leicester fans they are. It was just so emotional, so incredible.

“It looked like it was going to go to next Saturday. Then that extraordinary second half. I just can’t get my head round it.

“I just think it’s generally the biggest sporting shock. I can’t think of anything that surpasses it. When it’s your own team it’s too extraordinary. Too difficult to put over in words.

“To be honest I got a bit emotional at the end of the game. I just couldn’t hold it back. It was quite hard to breathe the last few minutes to be honest.

“I’ve followed them since I was a little kid. I was a season-ticket holder until I was seven years old. I saw them in a cup final – lose – that was the closest we ever got to big glory. Won the league cup a couple of times but this is just something else. This is actually impossible.

“There were no odds that I would have taken at the start of the season. No odds. You could have given me 10 million to one and I’d have said ‘Nah, it’s a waste of a quid’.

“It’s extraordinary. I’m from there and I went to play for them for a couple of years. I even kind of part owned them for a while when they were in trouble. To see where they are now and to enjoy this moment especially with my family, it’s incredible.”

Mark Selby was winning his second world snooker title at the time, but a big Leicester fan, he had double cause to celebrate afterwards.

“I didn’t know until afterwards. One of the guys who was sat just to the left of me is a big Leicester fan, so after I got back to my seat he said to me it was 2-2 and Leicester were champions,” he said.

“I knew going out there that the game was kicking off, but I tried not to think about it too much because I didn’t want it to distract from what I had to do.

“I can’t believe it – I don’t know what’s more of a shock, me winning the title twice or Leicester becoming the champions. Hopefully in another two years I’ll come back and win it again and Leicester will be Premier League champions again.”

Leicester Mayor and lifelong fan Sir Peter Soulsby said: “Everyone in Leicester thought ‘it’s okay, we’ll do it against Everton at home’ and then of course Chelsea, amazingly came back and took control of the second half.

“It’s a brilliant team and a couple of brilliant managers. Nigel Pearson laid the foundations for it and Claudio Ranieri has taken it on brilliantly and we’re enormously proud of the team.

“We’ve had some pretty dire seasons over the years and some pretty good seasons but nothing ever like this.

“Last year we were burying a king and in terms of international attention we thought it couldn’t get any better than that. We had camera crews from around the world and it’s got better.

“When we were burying a king they were seven points adrift at the bottom and here we are just over 12 months on and they are Premier League champions. It’s hard to believe.

“The first thing now is we can book the open top bus. I have deliberately not been doing any announcements in how we are going to celebrate until it was confirmed but the preparations will begin for the celebrations which will take place immediately after the end of the season.”

On whether Ranieri would get the freedom of Leicester, he added: “I bet there will be a lot of people asking for it. It’s too early to say how we’re going to do it but I’m sure we’ll want to recognise what’s been an amazing achievement for Claudio and an amazing team.”

Chelsea captain John Terry, who played under Ranieri at Stamford Bridge, wrote on Instagram: “Congratulations to Claudio Ranieri and Leicester City. A real gentleman and a top manager.”

Terry added on Sky Sports: ”Congratulations to Leicester because they have been superb this year. The rivalry with Tottenham means a lot but that still hurts us tonight losing the league title after the way we won it last year.

”It hurts passing the Premier League title to Leicester but credit to them, they’ve been superb. We’ve not been good enough but we’ll be back next year.

”Claudio Ranieri is different class and I’m pleased for him 100 per cent. I spoke to him pre-season and wished him well and to do what they’ve done this season has been unbelievable and given hope to the smaller sides.

”Credit to Claudio because he’s a great manager and a great person. Congratulations to Leicester and all their players because all season long everyone has been saying they’d lose the next one, they’ll lose the next one but they never did and they’ve kept churning out results.”

Another former Fox Robbie Savage believes the title is the “greatest achievement in sporting history”.

Savage said: “It’s going to be one unbelievable night for Leicester. Those fans have been with that team through thick and thin.

“The greatest achievement in sporting history. I don’t think anything betters this. It’s incredible.

“They’ve proved a lot of people wrong. I was a massive skeptic of Claudio Ranieri. I didn’t think they could win it but they’ve proved me and a lot of people wrong and they thoroughly, thoroughly deserve it. What an amazing night.”

Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher added on Sky Sports 1: ”I think there’s no doubt that is the greatest achievement in the history of our game, I think it’s unprecedented.

”I think in the past there’s been teams who have come up and won the league but it was more of a level playing field then. Now, what Leicester have done is give inspiration to every football club, every manager, player, supporter all across the land that one day that could be them.

”Football had become a closed shop with the same teams winning year after year and you never believed a story like this could happen, but it has and you just think what that could do for the rest of football now and if it could change and you could see more of this more often.

”But it’s a fantastic achievement and you can’t quite believe it’s happened. Statue for Ranieri in the morning I think, isn’t it.’