6 Most Surprising Title Winners in Football History, Including Leverkusen and Leicester City

6 Most Surprising Title Winners in Football History, Including Leverkusen and Leicester City

Isaac Darko
updated at April 15, 2024 at 6:28 PM
In this article:
Bayer Leverkusen logo
Bayer Leverkusen
Leicester City logo
Leicester City
Atletico Madrid logo
Atletico Madrid
VfL Wolfsburg logo
VfL Wolfsburg
FC Twente Enschede logo
FC Twente Enschede
Deportivo La Coruna logo
Deportivo La Coruna
  • Leverkusen have ended Bayern Munich's dominance by finally winning the Bundesliga
  • Several teams across Europe have managed to pull off a shock title win over the years
  • Sports Brief explores six of the most surprising title winners in the history of football ever

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At the start of each new league season, there are perennial favourites expected to clinch the title.

However, occasionally, a dark horse emerges to defy expectations and claim victory.

Under the leadership of Xabi Alonso, Bayer Leverkusen achieved the unthinkable, ending Bayern Munich's 11-year Bundesliga reign with a resounding 5-0 win over Werder Bremen.

Sports Brief explores six of the most surprising title winners in the history of football ever.
Sports Brief explores six of the most surprising title winners in the history of football ever. Photos by @premierleague/@leverkusen.
Source: Twitter

While Leverkusen's triumph is remarkable, they're not the first to upset the established order.

Throughout Europe, several leagues have witnessed unexpected champions who shattered the dominance of traditional powerhouses.

In honour of Bayer Leverkusen's extraordinary season, Sports Brief explores six of the most surprising title winners in football history.

Most surprising title winners

Leicester City (2015/16 season)

Leicester City's 2015-2016 Premier League triumph, against odds of 5000-1, stands as one of football's greatest underdog stories.

After narrowly avoiding relegation the previous season, the appointment of Claudio Ranieri raised eyebrows.

However, Leicester's stunning ascent to the top of the table, marked by a 3-0 win over Swansea City, saw them maintain their lead and finish ten points ahead of second-placed Arsenal, losing only three matches all season.

Key players like N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez moved to Champions League clubs, while Jamie Vardy became a Premier League icon.

Deportivo La Coruna (1999/00 season)

In December 2023, Deportivo found themselves in the third tier of Spanish football, a far cry from their glory days. Under manager Javier Irureta in 2000, they clinched their first-ever top-flight title.

Despite a relatively weak La Liga season, they secured the championship with 69 points, five ahead of Barcelona and Valencia.

Led by talents like Roy Makaay, Djalminha, and Pauleta, A Coruna became the second-smallest city to host a La Liga-winning team, after Real Sociedad of San Sebastian.

Bayer Leverkusen (2023/24 season)

When Harry Kane joined Bayern Munich in 2023, it seemed their Bundesliga dominance would continue after 11 consecutive titles.

However, Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen emerged as victors.

Alonso's arrival in October 2022 transformed Leverkusen from 17th to league leaders. They remain undefeated in the 2023/24 season, claiming their first-ever league title with remarkable dominance.

Montpellier (2011/12 season)

Montpellier clinched their first Ligue 1 title in 2012, spoiling PSG's debut season under Qatari ownership.

Despite finishing 14th the previous season, they surprised everyone by winning 25 games and securing the title with a 2-1 victory over Auxerre on the final day.

Olivier Giroud, their star player, finished as the league's top scorer with 21 goals before moving to Arsenal for £9.6m in the summer.

Wolfsburg (2008/09 season)

Wolfsburg, initially formed for Volkswagen workers, climbed through German football ranks to reach the Bundesliga in 1997.

They established themselves as a top-flight team and surprised everyone by winning their first Bundesliga title in the 2008/09 season under manager Felix Magath.

With 69 points, they edged past Bayern Munich, whom they defeated 5-1 in April.

Grafite and Edin Dzeko, their striking duo, were instrumental, scoring a combined 54 league goals and earning a place in history as one of the most prolific partnerships.

FC Twente - 2009/10 season

FC Twente, founded in 1965, emerged as a force in the Eredivisie in the mid-2000s under Fred Rutten. Despite his departure to Schalke in 2008, his replacement, Steve McClaren, defied expectations.

With Erik ten Hag's assistance, McClaren not only maintained Champions League contention but also led Twente to their inaugural league title the following season.

They edged past Ajax by one point, with Bryan Ruiz, later a Fulham star, netting 24 league goals from midfield.

Atletico Madrid - 2013/14 season

Atletico Madrid excelled in the 2013/14 season, showcasing Diego Simeone's remarkable defensive setup.

Despite conceding just 26 league goals, significantly fewer than second-placed Barcelona, they secured the title with a 0-0 draw against Barcelona on the final day.

This victory ended a decade-long dominance by Barca or Real Madrid in La Liga.

Atletico, featuring stars like Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois, reached the Champions League final but lost to city rivals Real Madrid.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)