Leicester City are not the only fairytale winners - here are 12 others who defied the odds

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Leicester City's Premier League title success undoubtedly ranks as one of modern football's biggest fairytale stories – but it's not the first time an unlikely title winner has been crowned.

From the Bundesliga to Serie A, La Liga to Ligue 1 – every one of Europe's top divisions has a story to tell when it comes to surprise heroes. 

Here are 12 of the very best from across the continent – how do these wins compare with Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri? 


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1. Dundee United – Scottish Premier League – 1982/83

The Tangerines topped the table a point clear of Celtic and Aberdeen in a closely fought title race.

In a frenetic finish to the season, Celtic came from two down to beat Rangers 4-2 on the last day, with Aberdeen also triumphing 4-2 over Hibernian.

It was all in vain though as Dundee United claimed the title courtesy of a 2-1 win over local rivals Dundee at Dens Park.

The star man: Target man Davie Dodds formed a formidable partnership up front with Paul Sturrock, scoring 22 goals along the way.

Stat of the season: Celtic striker and future Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas finished the season with 48 goals, picking up the Footballer of the Year and Players' Player of the Year awards in the process. He left for Arsenal the following summer.

What happened next: Dundee United finished the following season in third, 10 points off Celtic, but progressed to the semi-finals of the European Cup along the way, losing to Roma 3-2 on aggregate having won the first leg 2-0.

2. Hellas Verona – Serie A – 1984/85

How they finished: Hellas Verona finished four points clear of nearest rivals Torino and ahead of Inter Milan, Sampdoria, Milan, Juventus and Roma in a closely fought top-half of the table.

Verona sealed the title with a game to spare after a 1-1 draw with Atalanta.

The star man: Danish attacker Preben Elkjær was the major creative force for Verona, famously scoring in a 2-0 win over Juventus after a solo run down the left flank that saw him lose his right boot but continue on before scoring with his shoeless foot.

He finished Ballon D'Or runner-up behind Michel Platini.

Stat of the season: The 1984/85 Scudetto remains as Hellas Verona's only major piece of silverware to date. 

What happened next: Verona finished the following season down in 10th, 17 points off leaders Juventus who also dumped them out of the European Cup in the second round.

3. AE Larissa – Greek Super League – 1987/88

How they finished: AEL finished three points clear of AEK Athens and four clear of PAOK in a season that was notable for being the first in which neither Panathinaikos nor Olympiacos finished in the top four.

The star man: Previously used as an impact sub, Vassilis Karapialis emerged as a dynamic no.10 for AEL over the course of the season, with fans famously holding aloft a banner declaring “"Karapialis, You Are Magic.”

He went on to win the player of the season award.

Stat of the season: AE Larissa remain the only team outside of Greece's two major cities (Athens and Thessaloniki) to win the Greek Championship.

What happened next: AEL underwhelmed the following season, finishing sixth in the league and exiting the European Cup in the first round following defeat to Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax on penalties following a 3-3 aggregate draw.

4. Tavriya Simferopol – Vyshcha Liha – 1992

How they finished: With the new Ukrainian Premier League broken up into two 10 team pools, Tavriya topped their standings, two points clear of Shakhtar Donetsk.

They went on to win the Championship final, beating Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 with a goal 15 minutes from time.

The star man: Captain and talismanic striker Serhiy Shevchenko may have only scored eight league goals, but that tally included the winner in that crucial game against Dynamo.

Stat of the season: Tavriya are only the third team to win the Ukrainian Premier League since its formation in 1992. Either Dynamo Kyiv or Shakhtar Donetsk have won it on every other occasion. 

What happened next: With the league reformatted into a single, 16-team setup, Tavriya finished well off the pace down in 10th. They also exited the Champions League in the qualifying stage, losing 7-2 on aggregate to Swiss side FC Sion.

5. Kaiserslautern – Bundesliga – 1997/98

How they finished: Newly-promoted Kaiserslautern finished two points clear of Bayern Munich with manager Otto Rehhagel gaining some revenge over the Bavarian giants, who had previously sacked him as their manager.

The star man: Olaf Marschall scored a sensational 21 goals in 24 Bundesliga games for Kaiserslautern, while midfielder Ciriaco Sforza provided plenty of creativity in the midfield. It would prove to be the pinnacle of both their careers. 

Stat of the season: Though he has a reputation as an unlucky loser in Germany, a certain Michael Ballack made 16 appearances for Kaiserslautern as a youngster and collected a league winner's medal.

What happened next: Kaiserslautern finished a respectable fifth the following season, qualifying for the UEFA Cup and making it all the way to the quarter-finals of the Champions League before being steamrolled by Bayern in a 6-0 aggregate defeat.

6. Deportivo La Coruna – La Liga – 1999/00

How they finished: Deportivo finished five points clear of nearest rivals Barcelona and Valencia, with Real Madrid down in fifth (though they still qualified for the Champions League after winning the trophy).

Depor won more games than anyone else in the division, claiming 21 victories from 38 games, the most notable being a 5-2 triumph over Real Madrid at the Riazor.

The star man: Signed from Tenerife in the close season, Dutchman Roy Makaay proved crucial to their title success, scoring 22 league goals to help the club claim its one and only league title success. He remains the club's second all-time top scorer.

Stat of the season: Depor's title win saw A Coruña become the second-smallest Spanish city (population 250,000) to win the league, second only to Real Sociedad from San Sebastian (180,000).

What happened next: Deportivo finished second in the following campaign, seven points off champions Real Madrid. They also reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Leeds United.

7. St Gallen – Swiss National League – 1999/00

How they finished: Despite winning a league title back in 1905, St Gallen had to wait almost 100 years for their next league crown, finishing an impressive eight points in front of nearest challengers Basel in the 22-game first stage league.

Their results in Championship playoffs proved equally impressive with St Gallen finishing 10 points clear of Lausanne Sport.

The star man: Ghanaian striker Charles Amoah provided the cutting edge in front of goal, scoring an impressive 25 goals to help St Gallen claim an unlikely title. He went on to score 37 goals in 56 games for the club. 

Stat of the season: Marcel Koller, the Swiss coach who has helped Austria qualify for Euro 2016, was in charge of St Gallen at the time and won Swiss Manager of the year. 

What happened next: St Gallen finished second in the regular season standings, advancing to the Champion playoffs, where they ultimately finished third, with Grasshoppers crowned champions.

Dumped out of the Champions League by Galatasaray at the qualifying stage, they went on to knock Chelsea out of the UEFA Cup, winning 2-1 on aggregate before losing in the next round to Club Brugge.

8. Boavista – Primeira Liga – 2000/01

How they finished: The black and whites of Boavista finished a point ahead of Porto in a season that saw Benfica appoint a certain Jose Mourinho as manager but finish down in sixth.

The star man: Boavista's current manager and one-time midfield dynamo Erwin Sanchez was the star, with the Bolivian bagging nine goals in 33 appearances for the unlikely league champions.

Stat of the season: Boavista were one of only five teams to win the Primeira Liga and only the second outside of Portugal's big three – Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon – to win the league.

What happened next: Boavista finished second, five points behind Sporting and enjoyed a commendable Champions League campaign. They advanced through the first group phase alongside Liverpool and at the expense of Dynamo Kyiv and Borussia Dortmund.

In the second group phase, they finished behind Bayern Munich and Manchester United, and would go on to reach a UEFA Cup semi-final the following year.

9. Rubin Kazan – Russian Premier League – 2008

How they finished: Having only made it into the top flight for the first time in 2003, Rubin claimed their first Russian Premier League title just five years later after finishing four points clear of CSKA Moscow under their iconic prayer bead-loving manager Kurban Berdyev.

Their title success was sealed with a win over FC Saturn Ramenskoye in which former Aston Villa striker Savo Milosevic bagged the decisive goal before retiring at the end of the season.

The star man: Though Aleksandr Bukharov scored several crucial goals along the way for Rubin, captain Sergei Semak and Turkish winger Gokdeniz Karadeniz both impressed in the midfield. With the goals shared out across several notable players, this was very much a team effort.

With the goals shared out across several notable players, this was very much a team effort.

Stat of the season: Rubin were only the third non-Moscow team to win the top-flight title in Russia.

What happened next: Incredibly, Rubin retained their Russian Premier League crown with relative ease, finishing eight points clear of nearest challengers Spartak Moscow.

Bukharov bagged 16 league goals this time around, gaining additional support from Argentine signing Alejandro Dominguez, who also scored 16 league goals.

Despite taking four points off Barcelona in the Champions League group phase, Rubin could only finish third, advancing to the knockout phase of that season's Europa League. They were eventually knocked out by Wolfsburg in the round of 16.

10. Twente – Eredivisie – 2009/10

How they finished: Steve McClaren successfully exorcised his England demons after guiding Twente to their first ever Eredivisie title. 

Despite a late charge from Ajax, Twente held on, finishing a single point ahead of the Amsterdam giants. 

The star man: Bryan Ruiz bagged 24 goals for Twente to help the club capture the Eredivisie crown. He was still some way off the league's top scorer though, as Luis Suarez scored an incredible 35 times for Ajax.

Stat of the season: Twente lost just two games all season and finished the campaign with a record of 16 wins from 17 home league games. 

What happened next: McClaren departed for Wolfsburg but Twente still enjoyed some success, beating Ajax to win the KNVB Cup.

They also came close to winning the league title again, finishing two points behind leaders Ajax after losing a decisive league encounter between the pair 3-1.

Twente finished third in their Champions League group behind Tottenham and Inter Milan. They moved into the knockout round of the Europa League, eventually losing to Villarreal in the quarter- finals.

11. Montpellier HSC– Ligue 1 – 2011/12

How they finished: Montpellier finished three points clear of big-spending Paris Saint-Germain, with former Portsmouth misfit John Utaka sealing victory with a game to spare courtesy of his brace in a 2-1 win over already-relegated Auxerre.

The star man: Olivier Giroud made his name with Montpellier after bagging 21 league goals, including a hat-trick against Dijon in a campaign that saw him catch the eye of a certain Arsene Wenger.

Stat of the season: It remains Montpellier's only league title success to date with chairman Louis Nicollin marking the occasion by fulfilling a promise to sport an orange and blue fauxhawk in the event of a Ligue 1 title win.

What happened next: Montpellier finished ninth the following season with PSG crowned champions. 

In Europe, Montpellier finished bottom of their pool in the Champions League group phase behind Schalke, Arsenal and Olympiacos.

12. Midtjylland – Danish Superliga – 2014/15

How they finished: Founded in 1999, Midtjylland finished four points ahead of Copenhagen having adopted a 'Moneyball' approach to player recruitment, where statistics rather than goals or reputation, dictated the signings.

The star man: Midfielders Jakob Poulsen and Sylvester Igboun were both recruited for their pace and crossing abilities and they certainly helped top scorer Martin Pusic, bagging 15 assists between them. Pusic, who had been signed mid-season from Esbjerg, bagged eight in 16.

Stat of the season: Midtjylland may not be a hotbed for young footballing talent but the club did unearth one gem – West Ham defender Winston Reid, who rose through the ranks at the club.

What happened next: Midtjyland sit down in fourth, 11 points off the pace. Copenhagen are on course for the title. 

Having been dumped out of the Champions League in the qualifying stage, the club advanced to the group phase of the Europa League after knocking out Southampton.

They were eventually beaten by Manchester United in the knockout phase of the competition.

Is Leicester City's story football's biggest fairytale? Have your say in the comments. 

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