The Most Unlikely League Champions of All Time

Tom Webb@@tomwebby92UK Staff WriterFebruary 12, 2016

The Most Unlikely League Champions of All Time

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Leicester City's barely fathomable Premier League title challenge received a huge boost on Saturday with a stunning 3-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

    The victory took Claudio Ranieri's side five points clear at the top of the table with 13 games remaining. Next, the Foxes face another huge challenge when they travel to the Emirates Stadium to take on fellow title favourites Arsenal on Sunday.

    But that won't frighten Leicester, who have seemingly gone from strength to strength across a season that has seen them claim wins over City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

    In light of the Foxes' unforeseen title tilt, here's a look at Europe's five most unlikely league champions...

Montpellier, Ligue 1 2011/12

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    GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

    Paris Saint-Germain may be finding life comfortable in Ligue 1 this season, having established a 24-point lead at the top from just 25 games, but it wasn't so easy for them in 2011/12.

    For that was the season of Montpellier. The club from the south of France stormed to a stunning championship win with 82 points from 38 games, beating PSG to the title by three points.

    That was despite the Parisians spending £82 million on players and attracting the services of Carlo Ancelotti the summer before.

    But it wasn't enough to stop Montpellier, who won the league courtesy of 21 goals from Olivier Giroud and other starring performances from the likes of Younes Belhanda and Remy Cabella.

Wolfsburg, Bundesliga 2008/09

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Wolfsburg claimed their first Bundesliga title in 2008/09 after an emphatic final-day win over UEFA Cup finalists Werder Bremen

    Felix Magath's side finished two points ahead of reigning champions and traditional heavyweights Bayern Munich thanks in large part to the prolific strike partnership between Edin Dzeko and Grafite, with a record 54 league goals shared between the two.

    Magath left for Schalke at the end of the season and spent a dismal seven months in charge of Fulham in 2014, overseeing the club's relegation to the Championship. Dzeko, meanwhile, joined Manchester City in 2011 while partner in crime Grafite left for Al-Ahli that same summer.

Nottingham Forest, English 1st Division 1977/78

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Leicester City's climb to the top of the Premier League in 2015/16 has been all the more incredible considering they were bottom of the same division just one year ago.

    A strong finish to the 2014/15 campaign ensured the Foxes' survival, paving the way for this season's incredible run.

    However, even if Claudio Ranieri's side do defy the pre-season odds and win the Premier League, it still won't compare with the astonishing achievement of Nottingham Forest in 1977/78.

    Led by Brian Clough, Forest followed up promotion to the top flight in 1976/77 by storming their way to the First Division title the next season, finishing seven points ahead of back-to-back champions Liverpool.

    It was merely the beginning for Clough's side, who went on to win consecutive European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

    Beat that.

Atletico Madrid, La Liga 2013/14

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    QUIQUE GARCIA/Getty Images

    Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid team of 2013/14 might not have been lightweights, but they were certainly underdogs in a league dominated by the heavyweights that are Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    No side outside Spain's big two had won La Liga in the 10 years since Rafa Benitez's Valencia completed a league and UEFA Cup double in 2004 until Atleti ended the duopoly with their stunning success in 2014.

    Simeone's side traded places with Barca and Real for much of the season before building a three-point lead that meant a draw from their final game of the season would be enough to see them crowned champions.

    Only one problem—they'd have to get it from the Camp Nou.

    It didn't look good for Atleti when they went 1-0 down to Alexis Sanchez's strike after 33 minutes, but a Diego Godin header drew the scores level, and the capital club held on to secure a remarkable triumph.

Hellas Verona, Serie A 1984/85

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Widely considered the greatest shock in the history of Italian football, Hellas Verona overcame the traditional giants from Milan, Rome and Turin to win their one and only Scudetto in 1984/85.

    The unlikely title charge came just five years after Lazio and AC Milan were relegated to Serie B for their part in a match-fixing scandal and helped restore the romance to a division damaged by corruption.

    Verona's triumph was orchestrated by the shrewd management of Osvaldo Bagnoli, while German midfielder Hans-Peter Briegel joined following an impressive Euro '84 campaign and proved an inspired signing.

    As with many unlikely champions, the team was broken up over the following years, and Verona were relegated in 1990, but their inspirational achievement in 1984/85 remains etched in history.


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