Previous
Brazil
Costa Rica
12:00 PM UTC
Match 25
Game Details
Nigeria
Iceland
3:00 PM UTC
Match 24
Game Details
Serbia
Switzerland
6:00 PM UTC
Match 26
Game Details
Belgium
Tunisia
12:00 PM UTC Jun 23, 2018
Match 29
Game Details
South Korea
Mexico
6:00 PM UTC Jun 23, 2018
Match 28
Game Details
Germany
Sweden
3:00 PM UTC Jun 23, 2018
Match 27
Game Details
Next
 By Nick Miller

Leicester deserve title but Tottenham's long-term prospects are better

After the final whistle at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri walked onto the pitch to celebrate the 2-0 victory against Sunderland with his players and the club's travelling fans.

As the Italian turned around -- perhaps due to the enormity sinking in of what he is surely about to achieve, perhaps simply out of relief following a fairly tight game -- he shed a tear, and it's tough to blame him.

Is it possible to think of a more extraordinary achievement in recent memory than Leicester, who have a seven-point lead with five games remaining, winning the Premier League? Not even recent memory, in fact.

The only real comparison in English football is probably Ipswich in 1962, when Sir Alf Ramsey's side won the title in their first-ever season in the top flight. But even that pales in comparison. In years gone by, it wasn't exactly common, but it was much easier for clubs outside the established order to succeed.

Now, the whole structure of football is arranged to prevent things like this happening, as the rich become richer and those at the top do more or less everything they possibly can to protect their position. The most popular league in the world's most popular sport has been dominated by the same handful of clubs for many years.

Leicester, astonishingly, have broken through and it's difficult to believe what is happening as an outside observer, never mind if you're actually involved with them. It's more of a surprise that Ranieri doesn't burst into tears every time he thinks about it.

One of the reasons why it is so extraordinary is that, realistically, this is a one-off. Sure, nobody thought this would happen once, so there's a certain line of logic to thinking "so why couldn't it happen again?" but the chances of a team like Leicester winning the title next season, a second glorious freak in a row, are infinitesimal.

It's a different story for the team that look likely to finish second, though. In some respects it's a shame that Leicester and Tottenham can't both win the league this season, so pleasing have they both been. Ranieri's men have the ultimate underdog story to boost their charm, whereas Mauricio Pochettino has built a young, exciting side that plays energetic, thrilling football.

Other than seven points, the big difference between the two clubs is that, while Leicester's season is the result of an extraordinary confluence of events -- a manager with just the right attitude and antidote to his predecessor, as well as several players simultaneously having the season of their lives, a clean injury record and a little luck -- Tottenham's campaign feels like the start of a plan.

Tottenham's nucleus of young players mean they should continue to challenge for Premier League titles.

That said, Spurs clearly will be disappointed if they don't win the title, despite never actually having been top of the table. At the end of their 1-1 draw with Liverpool last week, a perfectly respectable result against a flawed but potentially excellent team, Pochettino punched the ground in frustration that his team had not won.

That was an indication of his ambitions, which is an entirely healthy and probably quite necessary thing, but should they finish second this season then it will be far from the end of the world. The potential in this Tottenham team is extraordinary, with a collection of players, who are nearer the start of their careers that the end and should improve.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Kyle Walker are all 25 or younger, while Tottenham's oldest outfield regulars are 28-year-olds Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele.

This is a team that is essentially growing up together, learning as a collective rather than a series of individuals and guided by a manager who could probably earn more money elsewhere, but has no footballing reason to leave. Moreover, the fact Pochettino doesn't have an agent suggests that his wallet isn't really a primary concern.

Tottenham have been in similar positions but, in years' past, didn't have the means to keep their best players, not only from a financial point of view but also but in terms of the potential for achievement. The club was seen as a stepping stone for the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, but not now.

The likes of Kane and Pochettino have been linked with moves elsewhere, but at the moment there are very few places that are unquestionable steps up, so why leave? The Times reported last week that the manager won't sign a new contract unless he is given guarantees that his top players would not be sold and the club would be fools not to agree to that demand.

Pochettino's predecessor Tim Sherwood might not be known for shrewd and considered observations on the game, but his comments on English television this weekend were absolutely right.

"The thing with Tottenham, which makes them different to Leicester, is that they will be able to attract the best players in the world this summer," he said. "On top of the pull of London and the fact Tottenham are a big club anyway, there could be Champions League football, as well as the prospect of a new ground and fantastic training facilities. They also have a young team with an exciting young manager. Everything is in place, on and off the pitch... Is there more to come from them? Absolutely."

For Leicester, this is a one-season deal and. If they somehow collapse from this point and do not win the title, they will probably never be in this position again. If they do win it, you wouldn't blame everyone at the club if they retired on the spot, because it probably isn't going to get better than this.

For Tottenham, assuming they add to their squad prudently and continue to grow as they have done to this point, they will probably start next season as title favourites along with Manchester City. The short-term future might turn out to be slightly disappointing at White Hart Lane but, beyond that, the possibilities appear endless.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.