The fact that this happened about a year after they played in the Europa League semifinals makes it an even looser fall than Leeds United, who went down in 2003-04 after playing in the Champions League semifinals in 2000-01.
As with Leeds United (who also went down with Southampton this time), Leicester got sunk for aiming too high. Leeds’ financial situation at the time was so dire that it resulted in two point withdrawals, in the championship and in League 1. They fell into an administrative state, which is where Leicester found themselves, until a consortium led by Gary Lineker came to the rescue.
Things may not be as bad now, with chairman Ayyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha promising to come together and fight for a return to the Premier League, but fans know that it took the club nine seasons to make it when Leicester last relegated to the Premier League in 2003-04. In the history of English soccer, champions have fallen faster — Manchester City was relegated one season after winning the league in 1938, and Liverpool ended up in the second division three years after winning in 1904 — but among the seven clubs to win the Premier League, Leicester City was second behind Blackburn Rovers to be relegated. And Rovers haven’t played in the Premier League since 2012.
In 2012, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, father of Ayeyawat, who died in a helicopter crash in 2018, bought Leicester City. A decade of smooth, fruitful activity followed, during which Leicester City returned to the Premier League in 2014, played in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2016-17, won the FA Cup in 2020-21, the Community Shield in 2022 and finished the season in fifth place twice.
It took a combination of financial mistakes involving aggressive investments in infrastructure in the hope that they would be funded by a regular presence in Europe, Covid-19, a manager supported by owners more on the basis of what he did than what he could do, and key players unable to regularly reach heights that put the club on the road to ruin. Compounding this annus horribilis is the fact that Leicester’s under-23 team is also out, and the women avoided relegation on the last day of the season.
The bankruptcy of the duty-free company meant a significant drop in revenue becauseCovid-19 has suspended travel in 2020. Costs have not decreased, however, as Leicester City has been building a state-of-the-art training facility and, in an effort to be competitive, has launched a pre-fund of £69.5 million in player salaries, the eighth highest in the league. Nevertheless, the club needs reinforcements, but manager Brendan Rodgers has been told that players will need to be signed out first.
After his Houdini act, Leicester sold players well. N’Golo Kante, Harry Maguire, Ben Chillwell, Wesley Fofana, Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater were expensive enough to rebuild. But player selection is not an exact science, and Patson Daka, Boubacary Soumaré, Ayoze Perez, Yannick Westergaard and Dennis Praet did not stick with the team as expected. They also failed to find buyers at a price that would justify selling them.
There are a number of players, including Juri Thielemans, Caglar Soyunka and Johnny Evans, who will leave for free this summer, so that opportunity was missed again. Leicester has also suffered injuries to Ryan Bertrand, James Justin, Ricardo Pereira and Evans this season. And key players like Jamie Vardy (37 games; 3 goals, 4 assists) and Wilfred Ndidi have not proven themselves.
The inability to replace Kasper Schmeichel didn’t help either. With John Terry on the coaching staff, Leicester were the only club in the top five in Europe not to miss a match since November until last week’s fruitless draw with Newcastle, leading Ayyawat Srivaddhanaprabhu to say: The odds may be against us, but we have overcome difficulties before.
Leicester scored 51 goals, as did Aston Villa, who finished seventh but conceded 68. Nottingham Forest conceded as many and Bournemouth 71, but both have lost fewer matches than Leicester with 22.
Keeping faith in Rodgers, unlike Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, too accelerated the decline that began early in the season, when Leicester picked up one point in seven games and suffered eight defeats and one draw between February and April. Rodgers said early in the season that the club should aim for 40 points. They scored six less (West Ham, whom Leicester beat 2-1 on the last day, scored 40), but that was the kind of negativity that no club that aspires to a place in the top six needs.
Dean Smith, who replaced Rodgers, had seven weeks and eight games to salvage the situation. His goal was to score 11 points in those games. Hemanaged to score nine. So I failed, he told reporters Sunday. Not all fairy tales, after all, have happy endings.