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5 most unexpected league title wins in recent history

Diego Maradona inspired Napoli to an improbable title win more than three decades ago.
Diego Maradona inspired Napoli to an improbable title win more than three decades ago.
ANALYST
Modified 05 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Who doesn't love an underdog story? The prospect of unheralded minnows beating the established order to win titles is always an enthralling one.

The game of football has evolved over the years. The entry of billionaires has brought about sound management principles to the football clubs, turning them into winning machines. The financial prowess of the owners of clubs like Chelsea, PSG or Manchester City can put Financial Fair Play to shame.

Meanwhile, the efficient management of the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United make it virtually impossible for smaller teams to break through. Nevertheless, that's where the beauty of football lies.

Every now and then, there are stories of unfancied teams stunning the heavyweights. On that note, let's have a look at five of the most unexpected league title wins in recent history.

#5 Montpellier (2011-12 Ligue 1 title)

Montpellier won the 2011-12 Ligue 1 title.
Montpellier won the 2011-12 Ligue 1 title.

There are chances you might not have heard of this team if you are not a keen follower of the Ligue 1.

After all, Montpellier are not among the elite teams in French football. They have failed to qualify for the Europa League in the past decade. But they achieved a miracle in 2012 when they won the Ligue 1 title ahead of the likes of Lyon, Lille and Marseille.

The beginning of the 2011 season saw new Qatari ownership at PSG and their expensive signings hinted that the capital club could run away with the title. However, much to their dismay, a youthful Montpellier, led by Golden Boot winner Olivier Giroud clinched the Ligue 1 title by three points in the final minutes of the season.

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They haven't been able to replicate that performance, finishing mid-table since then.


#4 Napoli (1986-87 Serie A title)

Diego Maradona playing for Napoli at his peak
Diego Maradona playing for Napoli at his peak

Napoli's landmark 1986-87 Serie A win is remarkable for many reasons. The people of the Naples region have traditionally suffered racial humiliation at the hands of their more prosperous northern counterparts.

This title win was a watershed moment in the history of Italian football, as it marked the first time a team from the region won the Serie A title. The win also marked the redemption of Diego Maradona, who had unceremoniously been dumped by FC Barcelona just a few years ago.

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The 1986-87 title was the first league win for Napoli and was coupled by a Coppa Italia triumph a few days later.

Napoli built on their success under the leadership of their talisman Maradona to win the UEFA Cup in 1989 and the Serie A title again in 1990. But they haven't won another league title since then.

In December 2020, they renamed their stadium Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to honour the legend who passed away last year.

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Published 05 Apr 2021, 11:03 IST
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