A Jamie Vardy inspired Leicester City continued beating all the odds as a double from the aforementioned Vardy including a wonder goal helped the Foxes beat Liverpool, reach 50 points and keep their lead at the top of the table.
One man who may well know what it’s like to be in Leicester’s and in particular Jamie Vardy’s position is none other than Olivier Giroud who is no stranger to winning a league title as massive outsiders.
Back in 2011 the French league was full of hype thanks to new middle-eastern owners at PSG, the billionaires splashed the cash on players such as Javier Pastore and brought in manager Carlo Ancelotti in a bid to win a league title.
Of course thanks to this financial backing and experienced new manager they went into the 2011/12 season as overwhelming favourites to be crowned champions.
However, in bizarrely similar fashion to what we are currently witnessing at the King Power Stadium, Montpellier came into the season with no ambitions or in most people’s mind hope of winning the league title yet they went on to beat their big spending rivals to finish the campaign at the summit.
That team was led in the goal-scoring department by a relatively unknown quantity at the time, Olivier Giroud.
It happened to be Montpellier’s second season back in the top flight, much like Leicester City this season and in their first season back up the French side finished in 14th place, so did The Foxes last season under Nigel Pearson.
Like Leicester who have found success under Claudio Ranieri, Montpellier were led to glory by Rene Girard who was 61 at the time, three years younger than Ranieri is today.
Frontman Olivier Giroud was the key man for Girard’s team in their league winning season and while his style of play differs greatly to that of Jamie Vardy, his rise to the top of French football was similar to Jamie Vardy’s rise this campaign.
The big Frenchman began his career in Ligue 2 at Grenoble where he failed to make an impact, subsequently being loaned out to Istres, a Championne National (third division) side where he scored 14 goals catching the eye of Tours who brought him back to Ligue 2 on a permanent deal.
21 goals in his second season at FC Tours was enough for Rene Girard to bring Giroud to the South of France for just €1.7 million, that translates as £1.3 million slightly more than Vardy’s £1 million, as they faced their first season back in the top flight.
Giroud managed 12 goals in his first Ligue 1 season, more than Vardy’s five last year, before really announcing himself on the scene with a golden boot winning 21 goals in Montpellier’s miraculous title win.
That season was ultimately the one that persuaded Arsene Wenger to bring the Frenchman to The Emirates Stadium.
Vardy already has 18 goals and with 14 games to go is likely to break Giroud’s tally of 21. Unlike Giroud however Vardy has come to the pinnacle of his career quite late whereas Giroud was 25 when they became champions.
One thing both men most definitely had in common was they were backed up by an exciting number 10 supplying them with chances. For Leicester City that is obviously Riyad Mahrez, Montpellier were relying on Younes Belhanda to create their chances.
Belhanda was crowned young player of the year at the end of that season and much like Mahrez lit up the league with his creative ability, he finished the season with 12 assists, Mahrez already has 9.
If the stories were not similar enough already, Mahrez is of Moroccan descent and had he not decided to play for Algeria he could well be lining out at international level alongside Belhanda in the Moroccan national team.
Indeed that similarity is very consequential but there is no denying that this Leicester City season is almost a mirrored image of Montpellier’s rise to glory.
It would be fair to say even that Leicester City’s season to this point is more impressive than that of their French counterparts. Montpellier had to fight off the big spending PSG to win the league whereas Ranieri’s side are competing against five or six teams with huge budgets.
Not only that but both Vardy and Mahrez are on course to eclipse the stats of Giroud and Belhanda, the best players for their respective teams.
Montpellier’s title win was seen as a great moment for football, it was proof that you don’t need to spend hundreds of millions to win big, were Leicester City to pull off a title-winning season it would eclipse that sense of relief for football purists.
For Montpellier it came down to the last day of the season to clinch the title, if their stories are to be the same, Jamie Vardy and his teammates would end up lifting the trophy at the home of last seasons champions Chelsea.
What a great end to a great story that would be.