Leicester City celebrated their coronation as Premier League champions and the first title in their 132-year history with victory over Everton on a day of elation at the King Power Stadium.
This was the Foxes’ official homecoming after they won the Premier League on Monday when Tottenham failed to beat Chelsea – and how they celebrated before, during and after the greatest day in the club’s history.
Leicester concluded the story that has captured the world’s imagination when captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri jointly lifted the Premier League trophy as they completed the journey from relegation battlers and 5,000-1 outsiders to champions in the space of 12 months.
This 3-1 victory over Everton was simply another demonstration of the power, commitment and quality that has brought them the title – but this was more than a football match, it was a carnival with tears of joy and high emotion.
Relive Leicester’s triumphant day at the King Power Stadium
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, blind since the age of 12, was accompanied by fellow countryman Ranieri as he walked out 30 minutes before kick-off to fulfil a promise to perform at the King Power Stadium if Leicester became champions.
And in a spine-tingling moment, Ranieri looked close to tears, although he later revealed he steeled himself not to cry on his greatest day, before the stadium exploded in applause and the teams came out.
“It was amazing. I tried to be strong without emotion because I can live the moment better. It was amazing when the maestro Andrea Bocelli sang,” said Ranieri.
This has been no ordinary title win and the moments when Ranieri stood side-by-side with Bocelli demonstrated that this was no ordinary title celebration.
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Leicester 3-1 Everton: Ranieri tells fans ‘keep dreaming, why wake up’
The long and winding Aylestone Road that weaves past Leicestershire’s cricket ground at Grace Road and up to the King Power Stadium was awash with fans and festooned in colour more than three hours before kick-off.
Leicester’s title party started at the stadium late on Monday and the scene suggested it had continued for a week in readiness for the day when the Premier League trophy was held aloft by Morgan and his boss.
Thousands of supporters surrounded the stadium simply to take part in the carnival to mark Leicester’s achievement, a nine-month-long sustained shock to the entire world of sport’s system.
A fairground was set up alongside the arena while hundreds gathered close to a big screen flashing up the greatest moments of this seismic season – and there was plenty to show, each goal bringing rousing cheers from the masses waiting for the main event.
Even those unable to secure highly prized tickets simply wanted to be near this outpouring of joy and a chance to celebrate an unlikely story of success that took Leicester from a brush with relegation to the Premier League title in the space of a year.
Manager Claudio Ranieri won a top-flight league title for the first time in his career
This is a global story, arguably the biggest overturning of the odds and defiance of logic in sport, with the demand for media tickets far greater than supply at this welcoming club that has dealt with the weight of expectation and rising attention in exemplary fashion.
Among the banners and signals of success one banner read “A Trophy Earned Not Bought”. This has not exactly been a rags-to-riches tale but it has turned the Premier League’s natural order upside down.
If the scenes outside were breathtaking, they were surpassed by what took place inside. This was a day Leicester, the city and its football club, will never forget and they did it justice.
Leicester’s players and their popular, charismatic manager Ranieri were always going to be the central figures – but there was one special non-footballing touch that will never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.
It was when Ranieri led Bocelli to a raised platform in the centre circle and briefly addressed the crowd before gesturing for silence, a call they heeded, then listened in awe to a perfect rendition of Nessun Dorma.
Bocelli then revealed he was wearing a Leicester shirt before his final number, Time to Say Goodbye.
The party mood continued on the pitch as Leicester City overran, outfought and outclassed Everton. If their celebrations had been to excess, perhaps understandably, there was no sign of it here as they simply did what they have done all season.
And as the Leicester family gathered, it was a time to celebrate the club’s past as well as this glorious present.
There was a parade of greats at half-time, including England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, former captain and manager Frank McLintock – a league and FA Cup double-winner with Arsenal in 1971 – as well as Dave Gibson and Mike Stringfellow.
This thunderous atmosphere fell silent for a few seconds shortly after the final whistle in anticipation of the presentation, but not for long. There was even a rendition of We Are Staying Up – a knowingly incongruous anthem for this new, resurgent Leicester City.
One figure has been at the hub of it all, the manager celebrated in the banner as The Godfather – Claudio Ranieri.
Leicester-born Mark Selby, who won the world snooker title on Monday to complete a remarkable sporting day for the city, paraded his trophy at half-time – with the help of club mascot Filbert Fox
This modest, emotional man was close to tears once more as he made his way to the presentation platform, the character they called the nearly man, ‘The Tinkerman’, who had pulled off one of the greatest feats in sport.
This weekend last year the Foxes were edging away from relegation with a 2-0 win against Southampton that took them into 15th place with 37 points from 36 games, two goals from Riyad Mahrez barely hinting at what was to come.
Now Mahrez is PFA Player of the Year, Jamie Vardy the Football Writers’ Association Footballer Of The Year and – so much more significantly – Leicester are champions with 80 points from 37 games.
They have allowed sport to suspend belief – but the King Power Stadium was celebrating glorious reality as fireworks and flames went off in the moment Morgan and Rainieri lifted the Premier League trophy.
Sport’s unlikeliest success story was complete.