As unoriginal a remark as it is, Leicester City are a source of great novelty this season.
Yes, they way they’ve played has been fun and brave and who doesn’t enjoy watching an unfashionable side knock-off the division’s traditional powerhouses, but they’re a force for good because of what the rest of the season will bring.
The promise of a new television contract (and the size of that deal) is enough to dissuade any team from selling their assets in January. Thank goodness, because previously winning sequences and good form were often at risk of being disrupted - and not because clubs were short-sighted or unambitious, but because the financial disparity meant that bids were sometimes impossible to resist.
As an example, in previous years the Srivaddhanaprabha family might have felt it logical to trade in Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez or one of the other high performing players. If a Chelsea or Manchester United were to bid upwards of £20m for any of them, it would have been very reasonable to justify a sale on the basis of what that income could do for the club’s future. Whether it be squad improvement or infrastructural development, it’s the kind of fee which teams with Leicester’s recent past have been almost trained to take and reinvest.
Where, after all, are the guarantees that the the option to sell at the top of the market will ever exist again?
That problem hasn’t been completely eliminated - there is still a competitive balance problem in the division - but the motivation to sell isn’t close to what it once was. Leicester will enjoy another season in the Premier League at the very least and with the income that will provide and the possibility of extra revenue from European football, £20m to £30m just isn’t as enticing as before. Or, at the very least, the opportunity cost of not selling players isn’t anything like as great.
The benefit is obvious: we get to see Leicester complete this cycle on their own terms. They will be able to finish the season with their current squad intact and the watching world will be spared the irritating “what if” scenario that would have existed had their prime assets been vultured.
That makes for a better competition. Other than supporters of traditional Champions League clubs, a lot of fans were at risk of being disenfranchised by the knowledge that no matter how well their side performed, it would always eventually be picked apart. Over the long-term that danger remains, but on a year-to-year basis there are at least some visible cracks in the glass ceiling and that’s absolutely necessary if the sport in this country is to retain its aspirational qualities.
This season is more fun because of Leicester City. They’re a new face in the crowd and they’ve regenerated outsiders’ interest in the top of the league. It might end gloriously or it may stutter to a halt tomorrow, but they shall succeed or fail depending on their performances rather than because of any bottom-line realities. The Premier League now represents a strange, opulent - and hence inverted - socialism and that is facilitating a more natural, more sporting year.