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8 unlikely league champions that Leicester will be hoping to emulate

The Foxes were made Premier League title favourites after a sensational victory over Man City at the weekend.

Updated at 22.19

1. Atletico Madrid — 2014

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OVER THE LAST 11 years, 10 Spanish league titles have been won by either Barcelona or Real Madrid. The exception was in 2014, with many critics having previously predicted that no one was capable of dethroning Spain’s two biggest sides. Diego Simeone and his supremely well-drilled team proved otherwise.

2. AZ Alkmar — 2009

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Most people will tell you that Louis van Gaal’s greatest achievement in management was building the mid-90s Ajax side that ultimately conquered Europe. However, guiding AZ to just their second-ever Eredivisie title in 2009 was similarly impressive. With a team that included current Tottenham star Mousa Dembele, they became the first side other than Ajax, PSV or Feyenoord to win the title since their only other triumph back in 1981.

3. Blackburn — 1995

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Granted, Blackburn were helped by the millions ploughed into the club by the late Jack Walker, which allowed them to purchase Alan Shearer, among others, for an English transfer record-breaking £3.6 million. Very much the Abramovich of his era, Walker’s funds led many at the time to accuse Rovers of buying success and while it was perhaps not as big a shock as some others on this list given that Kenny Dalglish’s side had finished second the previous season, they still managed to get the better of a star-studded Man United team with a workmanlike but hardly exceptional group of strong, uncompromising characters like Tim Sherwood, David Batty and Colin Hendry.

4. Sampdoria — 1991

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Sampdoria won their first and only Serie A title in the 1990-91 season with a highly talented side that included the likes of Gianluca Pagliuca, Attilio Lombardo, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli, who was the league’s top scorer that season with 19 goals in 26 games (see above). It was a period when Serie A was at its height in terms of status, yet against the odds, a team that had previously never finished higher than fourth managed to prevail.

5. Derby — 1972

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Having been in Division Two just three seasons previously, Brian Clough inspired Derby to an improbable triumph. Before the legendary manager’s arrival, they had won just one major trophy in their history — the 1946 FA Cup — yet the enigmatic Englishman inspired their meteoric rise with his well-documented motivational skills and an array of astute signings.

6. Hellas Verona — 1985

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In 1985, Hellas Verona earned their first and only title triumph to this day, finishing four points ahead of Torino to secure glory. They lost just two of their 30 matches during the campaign and were very much a surprise package, having only finished sixth the previous season.

7. Kaiserslautern — 1998

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FC Kaiserslautern stunned Germany by winning the Bundesliga the season after earning promotion, finishing two points above defending champions Bayern Munich. It was just their second-ever title triumph. Coached by Otto Rehhagel, who had been previously sacked by Bayern and who would go on to oversee another unlikely success story with Greece at Euro 2004, the club were inspired by 21-goal hero Olaf Marschall and also boasted a young Michael Ballack and an old Andreas Brehme within their ranks.

8. Nottingham Forest — 1978

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Another Clough-inspired triumph, Nottingham Forest are one of a select group of sides to win the league the season after having been promoted, also claiming the League Cup that year, as the manager rediscovered his Midas touch following a notoriously turbulent 44-day spell in charge of Leeds United.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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