What we have now is thrilling schadenfreude for those of us who find ourselves peering inside footballs bubble and not always liking what we see about the establishment, the churn of success for the same old superpowers and the way, at some clubs, it sometimes feels as if money is the way they keep the score. Leicesters entire wage bill, to put it into context, is 57m, roughly a quarter of that of the Manchester United side who are now barely a speck in their wing-mirrors.
It may seem surprising that Leicester are the eighth-highest net spenders since promotion but, then again, just consider how much the three players nominated for the Professional Footballers Associations Player of the Year award cost the club. Four years ago Vardy was turning out for Fleetwood Town, Mahrez was playing for Le Havre reserves and NGolo Kant was breaking through in a Boulogne side slithering towards the Championnat National, Frances third division. They cost a combined 7.1m and heaven knows what they would fetch in the current market.
Not that Leicester need to think that way these days. The dreamers have become the dream-makers. They have reached this point with starting odds of 5,000-1 and, in the process, they are changing all our perceptions. Because if Leicester can win the league, then, crazy as it sounds, what is to stop the supporters of Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and other like-sized clubs wondering whether the same can happen to them one day?
The truth, of course, is more prosaic and it is much more likely normal service will resume next season when Manchester City will surely improve under Pep Guardiola, Chelsea cannot be so bad again and Manchester United would presumably like to think the same about themselves. But this is why Leicesters story is so captivating. They have brought hope where many thought there was none. They have supplied hard, exhilarating evidence that it is possible to catch and overhaul the super-rich and, in doing so, they have made glorious buffoons out of all of us who imagined them in the relegation quicksands.
The stampede of people tipping Leicester to slip into the Championship included correspondents from the BBC, ITV, the Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and, yes, the Guardian. Leicesters title odds were the same as Dagenham and Redbridge winning the FA Cup or the Loch Ness Monster being discovered in the River Soar. And how many people had a flutter? Twenty-five, according to William Hill, ranging from a woman in Edinburgh who put on five pence and might get 250 for her troubles to the two largest stakes, 20, placed in Warwick and Manchester.
The gamblers include a Brighton supporter, Nathaniel Whessell, who placed his 60p bet for a laugh and plans to spend the summer in Ibiza if he rakes in 3,000 winnings. In total the 25 bets amounted to 68.55. Only three, however, were placed in Leicester, which suggests that many people in the city shared Gary Linekers suspicions last July about the appointment of their new manager. Claudio Ranieri? Lineker wrote on Twitter. Really?
Not everyone, though. Leigh Gilbert stuck a fiver on as soon as the former Chelsea manager was hired. I think I was the only one who liked the idea, says the 39-year-old carpenter. Everyone else I spoke to was incredibly negative. You can imagine what it was like The Tinkerman? Oh great, hes going to do nothing but that was the moment it clicked in my head and I thought: Im going to stick some money on this. I really thought Ranieri, with all his experience, all the teams he has managed, could do something. Though I have to admit it did help that Id had a few drinks that night.
Gilbert used to sell raffle tickets for Leicester in their days at Filbert Street, when one side of the ground was so much smaller than the others a dozen or so enterprising supporters would get a free view from the roof of Bentleys, an engineering factory in Burnmoor Street (hence the fans forum known as Bentleys Roof). Next season, he says, he hopes to spend his winnings on a season ticket. It is not straightforward, however. They tell me the waiting list is astronomical.
From Ranieri, taking his seat for a standing-room-only press conference, there was an apology for abandoning his usual policy of shaking everyones hands. I would lose one hour, Ranieri said, looking round a sweaty, airless room filled with 70-plus journalists. Ranieri talked about how much he loved the Champions League music and his tears at Sunderland. He called his players my sons and reminisced about starting the season as the manager with the shortest odds to be sacked (I remember it very well). His eyes twinkled, his smile was never far away.
Would he like a statue? In Italy we have a saying that you get a statue only when you are dead, he replied, and he rocked with laughter.
Its too easy to have a great season with great teams, Alessandro Vocalelli wrote in Corriere dello Sport this week. Leicester are the tangible demonstration that fairytales still exist and the classic clubs arent the only ones who can have a go at winning something. But you can root for Claudio, too, and his ability to be moved, those tears he wiped away and how natural he is in interviews, which he always undertakes with a smile, without any sense of arrogance or tension, admitting hes emotional. I am, yes. Whats wrong with that? The only risk is that he makes everyone else working in this stressful profession look even more sad and weary.
A club that played Lincoln City, Mansfield Town, Burton Albion, Rotherham United and Birmingham City in pre-season have been confirmed for this summers International Champions Cup with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Leicesters story is sport as we would like it, Maurizio Crosetti, La Repubblicas correspondent, has written, noting the temptation to switch over from Serie A where people get kicked in the head, throw fireworks and live with suspicions, hysteria, victim complexes and whining. Ranieris tears of joy are much better. Hes a good person who has worked a lot and won little, from Vigor Lamezia to the Premier League, via Spain, France, Greece, Juve, Roma, Inter and many other places without ever showing a lack of class.
A book, incidentally, is three-quarters written (though Rob Tanner, chief football writer of the Leicester Mercury, has named it 5,000-1) and its pre-orders come from as far away as Singapore. Tanner has a copy of the front cover Hope and disbelief in the Premier Leagues greatest-ever season but, first things first, Leicester have to make sure it is a happy ending and that nothing stops their captain, Wes Morgan, getting his hands on the trophy.
Morgan is another classic Leicester story: a wall of a centre-half with a tattoo shop called Ink-credible and a childhood rejection from Notts County for being so overweight. Morgan has been such a rock in Leicesters defence Harry Redknapp paid him the ultimate compliment last week. I think he has been very unlucky not to have got an England cap by now, Redknapp said. I dont think he would let anyone down if given the chance.
The news of Morgans 25 caps for Jamaica has clearly not reached everyone but, somehow, that oversight fits neatly into the Leicester narrative. The mind goes back to a feature on Sky Sports a few weeks ago when various Tottenham fans were asked outside White Hart Lane whether the title could still be heading their way. All of them said yes. Leicester are nobodies, one loudly exclaimed. Come on, you do the maths. Glorious nobodies on the point of history. And it really could not get any madder.