Before they became ‘good’ again, it’s worth remembering some of the key figures who were central to Leicester’s development prior to that famous Premier League win …
Make no mistake about it, Esteban Cambiasso was one hell of a player as he established his legacy in the Serie A. It might even surprise you to know that he began his career at even greater heights with Real Madrid, though their short-tempered Galactico period stuttered his time at the Santiago Bernabeu. And what a loss it turned out to be.
As we’ve discussed in a previous article surrounding Luis Figo’s inaugural move to the Galacticos, Real Madrid really struggled to get any semblance of balance into their squad at the time – hence why the overall project really failed before it had a chance to get some wind beneath its sails. Contributing to these issues in particular, were the sales of players that didn’t fit their new policy, but would have been ideal to get them going.
Such as Samuel Eto’o (as we’ve also discussed here at Ultra United), Claude Makelele and Esteban Cambiasso.
With the Argentinian, he ended up being shipped out to Milan with Internazionale in 2004 on a Bosman agreement, and it was there that we came to understand the true capabilities of the man. Generally deployed as a defensive midfielder, players in that role generally adhere to one of two things: they’re either a combative presence to disturb the opposition, or a focal point for restarting the attack for their own team once possession is gained. It therefore takes a very special player indeed to do both – and this is what Esteban Cambiasso was able to do.
In just shy of a decade in the blue and black of Inter, Cambiasso scored 41 goals in 315 games for the club, as they ushered in one of their most successful times on a football pitch – culminating in a successful treble-winning spell with a Serie A, SuperCoppa Italian and UEFA Champions League crown to boot under Jose Mourinho. With the influential Argentinian earning plaudits all-round for his impact on the side.
“All in all, Esteban Cambiasso is one of the greatest players to have ever pulled an Inter shirt on and to grace the pitch in the Serie A. He is an intelligent midfielder, who has the capacity to change the shape of a game off his own boot. He is one of the most influential midfielders in Italian football, and for that reason and many more, he will certainly be remembered as one of the most talented players of all time.”Reporter from Goal
on the influence of Esteban Cambiasso at Inter Milan
But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and in 2014 (at the age of 34), Esteban Cambiasso joined newly-promoted Leicester City in the Premier League – a major coup for a club like theirs at the time, and very few could have suspected just how impactful his signing would be for them (even at that pensioner’s age).
Throughout the season, the club expectedly yo-yo’d into and out of the relegation zone as they struggled for form, as well as a lack of clear quality from their newer recruits – though Cambiasso doesn’t fall into that category, instead, he became the orchestrator in midfield to keep them going. Whenever he received the ball, his quality shone through, which was of major benefit to a largely inexperienced side around him, and though he may not have contributed to as many goals as they needed, his professionalism and consistency allowed the Foxes to look much more respectable and stable towards the back than without him.
So much so, that the Argentinian magician capped off his one and only season in the topflight of English football with a Leicester City Player of the Year Award by the summer of 2015, and a ‘cult hero’ status at the King Power stadium has been retained ever since.
But even more importantly than his impact on that particular season in keeping them up, is what that allowed them to do in the seasons since. As we know, the 2015-16 campaign (the year after Cambiasso’s only year in Leicester), they went on to obtain the most unlikeliest of successes in Premier League history by winning the damn thing. And though it’s not down to their previous antics, the fact that they were given the financial freedom to by some of the players who’d become pivotal to their triumph, showcases the importance of those who rallied to retain their status.
And of them all, I don’t think any deserve more credit than Esteban Cambiasso, he brought a level of class and ability that they hadn’t been used to having in their recent years in English football and, without him, I don’t think we’d even be considering them as Premier League stalwarts, leave alone top-sport contenders.