Leicester's unlikely lads: meet the players

Journeymen, late bloomers and a striker who made medical splints while playing semi-pro; UEFA.com marvels at Leicester's shock English championship winners.

Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel celebrate
Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel celebrate ©Getty Images
Schmeichel Snr on Denmark’s EURO '92 win
Schmeichel Snr on Denmark’s EURO '92 win

GK: Kasper Schmeichel, age 29 – 36 games/0 goals
Arguably more famous, until this season anyway, for being the son of former Denmark and Manchester United keeper Peter. Schmeichel Jr was 20 when making his Premier League debut for Manchester City yet within four years he was playing for Notts County in the fourth tier. Joined Leicester in 2011, won the first of 20 Denmark caps two years later and has been ever-present in the Foxes' success, keeping 15 clean sheets.

RB: Danny Simpson, 29 – 28/0
"I saw Danny Simpson play at QPR," ex-England midfielder Jamie Redknapp said recently. "I can't believe it's the same player." Simpson was another to take a circuitous route to the top. A product of Manchester United's academy, he spent several seasons on loan before finding consistency with a switch to Newcastle. He did well in the north-east, though his career eventually stalled and he landed in Leicester via Queens Park Rangers in 2014.

Wes Morgan
Wes Morgan©AFP/Getty Images

CB: Wes Morgan, 32 – 36/1
Leicester's skipper did not make his top-flight debut until he was 30, half a lifetime on from his release by Notts County as an overweight teen. He had two seasons in non-league before Nottingham Forest picked him up. There he remained until Leicester came calling with a surprise transfer in 2012, then-manager Nigel Pearson earmarking him as a leader at the heart of his defence. He was not wrong.

CB: Robert Huth, 31 – 35/3
When Huth signed for the Foxes in 2015, many assumed it was the last act of a career which had peaked early. Twice a Premier League winner with Chelsea, Huth was 24 when collecting the last of his 19 caps for Germany (he had appeared at the 2006 FIFA World Cup). Even so, he was a commanding presence over five campaigns with Stoke until injuries took their toll. Leicester then took him on, initially on loan, and this term he has missed one league game.

Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs
Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs©Getty Images

LB: Christian Fuchs, 30 – 30/0
Leicester's class clown. Lured from Schalke by Pearson last summer, Fuchs considered a last-ditch switch to Major League Soccer when the manager was sacked, an opportunity to be closer to his New York-based wife and children. In the end he decided to stick and his long throws have been a potent weapon all season. Now Fuchs is plotting his next shock – with Austria at UEFA EURO 2016.

RM: N'Golo Kanté, 25 – 35/1
The Premier League's best player of 2015/16 "by a long way" according to ex-Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, Kanté slipped into English football last summer after catching the eye, aged 24, with a Caen side that finished 13th in Ligue 1. A late bloomer perhaps, the Parisian has been capped twice by France this spring, marking his 25th birthday with his first goal for Les Bleus. 

Player of the season Riyad Mahrez
Player of the season Riyad Mahrez©Getty Images

CM: Riyad Mahrez, 25 – 35/17
The French-born Algerian needed persuading to link up with Leicester from Ligue 2 team Le Havre in 2014. "Everybody was saying: 'Riyad, England is not for you, it is too physical, too strong. Spanish football would suit you better,'" he recalled. However, the rail-thin Mahrez's trickery has possibly been Leicester's biggest asset, his fellow professionals voting him the league's player of the season.

CM: Danny Drinkwater, 26 – 34/2
Another who slipped through the net at Manchester United. Drinkwater never played a league match for his home-town club and left for Leicester, aged 21, after Paul Scholes's decision to come out of retirement blocked his path. (Another young midfielder, Paul Pogba, followed not long after.) A little over four years on, he is a full England international.

LM: Marc Albrighton, 26 – 36/2
Albrighton emerged at Aston Villa, the team he supported as a boy, but after a bright start the winger's fortunes declined with a marked change in playing style. He was released in 2014 – Villa's loss being Leicester's gain. Used sparingly in his first campaign in the east Midlands, Albrighton has begun all but two league games under Claudio Ranieri.

Jamie Vardy: England's secret weapon?
Jamie Vardy: England's secret weapon?©Getty Images

FW: Jamie Vardy, 29 – 34/22
The forward broke a Premier League record by scoring in 11 successive fixtures, his prodigious pace and determination suddenly allied to killer finishing. Recruited from fifth-tier Fleetwood aged 25 in 2012, Vardy has shot into contention for the England team – hard to conceive given the frontrunner previously combined a semi-pro career with a job making medical splints.

FW: Shinji Okazaki, 30 – 34/5
A relatively expensive summer buy from Mainz, Okazaki had earlier failed to sparkle during a three-year stint with more illustrious Stuttgart. Though the Japanese international has scored at a relatively modest rate at Leicester, his skill and work ethic have been much appreciated. "He's always there in the penalty or six-yard box," noted team-mate Albrighton.

José Ulloa
José Ulloa©AFP/Getty Images

Super subs
FW: José Ulloa, 29 – 28/6
Journeyman Argentinian striker who hit 28 second-division goals for Almería in 2011/12 and played a key role in Leicester's battle against relegation last term.

DF/MF: Jeff Schlupp, 23 – 22/1
Hamburg-born Schlupp has been a reliable understudy for Fuchs and Albrighton. Had a trial at Man. United in 2013 but was sent back to Leicester, where he has been since he was 12.

MF: Andy King, 27 – 23/1
Leicester's longest-serving player, King made his first-team bow in 2007 when the club were in the third division. Once on Chelsea's books, the Wales midfielder has served seven different Foxes managers.

Other players used
Ritchie De Laet (12/1), Nathan Dyer (12/1), Daniel Amartey (5/0), Yohan Benalouane (4/0), Demarai Gray (10/0), Gökhan Inler (5/0), Andrej Kramarić (2/0), Marcin Wasilewski (2/0), Joe Dodoo (1/0)

Top