South Korea
12:00 PM UTC
Match 12
Game Details
3:00 PM UTC
Match 13
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6:00 PM UTC
Match 14
Game Details
3:00 PM UTC Jun 19, 2018
Match 16
Game Details
12:00 PM UTC Jun 19, 2018
Match 15
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 19, 2018
Match 17
Game Details

Spanish FA was right to fire Lopetegui


Leicester's elimination of Sevilla can be read through many different lenses

Another Champions League night, another comeback.

Except Leicester's elimination of Sevilla stands apart because it can be read through so many lenses. Shall we start with the Scrooge-like "bah, humbug!" interpretation?

In that view, this isn't a surprise. After all, Leicester have a higher wage bill, and their net spending in the past four transfer windows is around $70.2 million. Sevilla, on the other hand, had a net transfer savings of $42.7m. That's a swing of more than $100 million.

There's more. According to Deloitte's Money League, which ranks European clubs by revenue, Leicester are 20th, whereas Sevilla aren't in the top 30 and haven't been since 2010, when they were 24th.

Money talks, so what do you expect?

So does stability. Just three of Leicester's 18-man squad on Wednesday -- Wilfred Ndidi, Islam Slimani and backup goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler -- had been at the club for less than a year. Half of Sevilla's players were new this season because, well, theirs is a wheeling-and-dealing club of which Harry Redknapp would be proud.

Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli is also a newcomer, while his opposite number, Craig Shakespeare, though only officially appointed over the weekend, has been at the club for eight of the past nine years.

Even given all that, it took a series of unlikely events to make this result happen. Like Sevilla wasting two penalty kicks and umpteen other chances over the two legs. Or Samir Nasri acting like a fool and Jamie Vardy simply acting to get him sent off. Or the ball ricocheting off Wes Morgan's knee for the first Leicester goal and goalkeeper Sergio Rico doing the mannequin challenge on the second.

There's your grumpy spoilsport version of events.

Make a 180-degree turn and you get a rather different reading. Like the fact that this was Leicester's first victory against a Champions League-caliber club since December. Or that English clubs were 0-6 against La Liga teams in the knockout phase of this competition since Chelsea upended Barcelona back in 2012.

Or that Leicester haven't been in the top half of the Premier League since September -- in fact, they were on the verge of the relegation zone until two weeks ago -- whereas Sevilla haven't been outside the top three in Spain.

Sure, some things broke in Leicester's favour over the two legs, but that's the nature of football. Consider the turnaround in this team, as well as where they've been for most of their 133-year history, and this is the sequel to last season's Premier League-winning fairy tale, aka the Greatest Underdog Feat in the History of Organised Sports.

In their first season of Champions League football, Leicester have reached the quarterfinals.

Those are the extremes, after which come the subtexts.

There's one specific to Leicester fans, the ones who have been there throughout and who endured both the drop into the third tier in 2008 and the subsequent bizarro period when eight people -- one of them named "Beaglehole" -- managed the club in a 23-month period.

These supporters know who they are, they know what they want and they know they'll be here long after the club-owning Srivaddhanaprabha family are a distant memory and the media circus has moved elsewhere.

For the fans, the Champions League is a bonus, a wonderful run with house money, like when you get a hunch and continually double down on black for as long as you can. They know that, right now, they're in this world. But they also know they're not of this world.

This is not their natural habitat; their habitat is -- or ought to be -- tranquil, midtable Premier League existence. This is their club and will remain so once Hollywood types stop talking about making a movie based on Vardy's life.

Meanwhile, there's the broader sea of neutrals who found themselves with vulpine sympathies a year ago -- unless you were a Tottenham fan, how could you not? -- who recoiled in horror at last month's sacking of Claudio Ranieri and tut-tutted knowingly about football being a business and this club being "no different."

They now find themselves ready for another wild ride with someone else's club. If they're clever, they know it will be different because you don't fall in love with the same person twice in the same way. Especially once you realize they're not the delicate, innocent thing you thought they were.

Where the players and coaches are concerned, there's the irresistible -- for media types -- temptation of references to Shakespeare's namesake, William. There are several versions of the same, easy morality play that may or may not be grounded in reality.

In one, Shakespeare is the ungrateful Judas, kept around by Ranieri only to stab him in the back and take his job. In another, the bad guys are the players, supposedly revolting and putting in little effort under Ranieri and then, the moment he's gone, once again going all out.

Unless you're in the dressing room, it's hard to know where the truth lies. And even those who are willing to speak freely and privately offer different accounts. Shakespeare denies treachery. Ranieri has indicated he does not feel betrayed by the players. The squad themselves press on, careful in what they say, stuck in this weird paradox: The better they play, the more some accuse them of willingly underperforming for Ranieri.

Throw in the Pinocchio act from the owners -- remember their "unwavering support" for Ranieri in early February? -- and this is much more of a chiaroscuro narrative. As a storyline, it's still appealing and you'll get plenty of the lightning-striking-twice tropes. 

There's a lot to wrap your head around, but the simplest -- and coldest -- explanation is that, most years, there's an interloper among the Champions League quarterfinalists, be it Wolfsburg, Malaga, Galatasaray, APOEL, Shakhtar Donetsk or Bordeaux.

The difference is that none of those other underdogs decided in midseason to fire the manager, who delivered the club's historic first league title in the world's biggest goldfish bowl.

Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.


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