Commentary

What frightens the European giants about Leicester City

In the context of English soccer, Leicester City is a great story, the little club that could, from the second level to the top of the English Premier League in two years.

Now that the Foxes have made it to the second round of the UEFA Champions League with one game to spare, their success is looked upon warily by big clubs across Europe. If a tiny English club can afford the transfer budget to compete in the Premier League and Champions League, how can they compete?

That's the question posed by Brendan Rodgers, the former Liverpool manager who is in his first season at Celtic. The Glasgow club is a former European Cup champion -- the first British club, in fact, in 1967 -- but it would stand no chance of winning the Champions league today.

The same goes for the likes of Ajax and PSV in the Netherlands, Steaua Bucharest in Romania and Red Star in Serbia, all former European champions. Rodgers would add to the mix clubs in major leagues like Italy and Spain, which cannot compete for players with EPL clubs, flush with new TV money.

"If you look at Italy and Spain and there is a real fear because of the finances," Rodgers said on Monday before Celtic faces Manchester City. "The Leicester City story would scare a lot of people. It’s great for them of course but here are some of these European superpowers -- AC Milan, Ajax -- who see players coming out of the huge clubs and going to some of the others in England who might not be deemed high profile but can pay the salaries. That’s something that can frighten."

For now, the problem remains theoretical. Leicester City is one of three English clubs (out of four) through to the knockout phase of the Champions League, but no EPL club has reached the final since Chelsea won in 2012. Rodgers' argument, though, is that the spending has a price for English soccer, the squeezing out of young talent.

"Money can work well but work against you, too," he said. "I look at the young boy [Manchester United's Marcus] Rashford, who is a massive talent and he’s finding it hard to get game time. When I was last here over 70 per cent of the players were foreign. A lot of your younger talent are finding it very difficult to get an opportunity."
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