Leicester City's miracle in winning the Premier League only two seasons after promotion to the top flight might not invite comparison. Yet, footballing history has other surprising fairy-tales from around Europe.
From the Napoli led by Maradona to the Greece feat in Euro 2004 or the Atletico Madrid's resurrection under Diego Simeone. From the Super Depor who won La Liga in 2000 to the back-to-backs Bundesliga conquered by Borussia Dortmund with Jurgen Klopp. IBTimes UK looks at four of the most surprising ones
Diego Maradona's Napoli
The history of Napoli could not be understood without Diego Armando Maradona, and the career of the number 10 has not sense without the southern Italian team. Yet, the defenders of the Argentinian legend as the best player in the football history argue that Lionel Messi, for instance, would have not achieved his great success at Barcelona in a modest club without the help of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and CO.
Maradona did. The Argentine, in fact, failed to lift La Liga during two seasons at the Nou Cam hampered by injuries but amply recouped that after making a £6.9m record transfer from the Catalans to Naples in 1984 at the age of 24. He arrived to a team with no league title in their cabinet, and during his time there until 1991 he helped them to won it twice, conquering also a Coppa Italia and a Uefa Cup while scoring 85 goals in 206 appearances.
Napoli, who was managed by Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri himself between 1991 and 1993, has since failed to replicate those achievements. Maybe that's explained by Maradona leaving them in 1992 following problems with drugs and misconduct. He remains a football legend but also a cult icon for the Napolitans.
Greece, conquering Euro 2004
Portugal arrived to the Euro 2004 as the favourites to win the tournament for obvious reasons. They were the hosts and had a cast of major stars including Figo, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and a promising Cristiano Ronaldo. France, winner of the contest four seasons before with Zinedine Zidane still at his best, promised the fiercest battle for the Portuguese with the base of the Arsenal invincible that won the Premier League that season with Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira among them.
Germany, runners-up in the World Cup 2002, the Netherlands of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Czech Republic with Ballon D'or 2003 Pavel Nedved in their ranks also appeared as contenders. Even England, with a young Wayne Rooney, or the Spain led by Real Madrid legend Raul emerged in the race despite a number of previous disappointments.
No one had Greece in mind though. Otto Rehhagel's side played boring football and they had no major stars, with the likes of goalkeeper Antonios Nikipolidis, Trainos Dellas, Thedoros Zagorakis and Angelos Charisteas. They didn't have a big football tradition either and no top league.
It didn't matter. They finished second in the group stage behind Portugal before going step by step all the way to the title after beating France, Czech Republic and Portugal in the final with three respective 1-0 victories. Maximum effectiveness.
Greece have since disappeared from the footballing map. They have failed in successive Euro and World Cup tournaments and Claudio Ranieri can bear witness of that after he was sacked by them before taking over Leicester.
Montpellier, Ligue 1 Champions in 2011-2012
Montpellier were fifth in the 2010-2011 seasons behind Marseille, Lyon, Auxerre and Lille in a surprising campaign after they had returned to the top flight in 2009.
Yet it was PSG and not them expected to join the race for the title in 2011-2012, after Qatar Sports Investment bought the Parisians with the intention of following in the footsteps of Chelsea and Manchester City in England. Paris lured prestigious Carlo Ancelotti to lead the side and splashed more than £80m to sign the likes of Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Kevin Gameiro, Blaise Matuidi and Maxwell in order to conquer the title.
However, football proved once again that money can help, but not buy, titles. Montpellier, with an annual budget of £29m, less than the money spent by PSG just on Pastore, pipped Ancelotti's side to the crown to become Ligue 1 champions for the first time in their history.If the achievement was not surprising enough on its own, it is worthwhile to recall to Arsenal fans that under-fire striker Oliver Giroud was their top scorer, with 21 goals in 36 appearances.
Simeone's Atletico Madrid reached Champions League final and won La Liga in 2012-2013
Atletico Madrid are nowadays one of the best teams in Europe, if not the best. However, the story was very different just five years ago. Los Colchoneros are historically the third team in Spain and had golden times in the 1940s and 50s. They even reached the final of the current Champions League in 1974 and won the La Liga and Copa del Rey double in 1994-95. However they were also relegated to the second division in 2000 under the charge of Ranieri himself – the Leicester boss resigned just weeks before the relegation.
The club managed to return to the top flight only two seasons after but nothing was ever the same. They garnered a reputation of a luckless team and during these years were the laughing stock for Real Madrid fans, the arch enemy's neighbours. Even the Uefa Cup won in 2010 under Quique Sanchez Flores was not enough to change that perception of a damned team.
But the arrival of Simeone in December 2011 with the club only four points above the relegation set a turning point in that history. He lead the to the Europa League title again a few months after arriving, beat Real Madrid in Copa del Rey in his second season at the club and almost touched the sky in the 2012-2013 by reaching the Champions League final and getting Atletico into the company of Barcelona and Los Blancos to claim their first La Liga title in 18 years. They didn't have Lionel Messi, nor Cristiano Ronaldo, but Simeone.