These included the very first match at King Power Stadium against Athletic Bilbao in 2002, as well as matches against Barcelona in 2003, Real Sociedad in 2006, Real Valladolid in 2009, Real Madrid in 2011, Barcelona again in 2016 and Villarreal in 2021.
On the occasion of each game, Leicester City exchanged pennants and gifts with their opponents, all of which are now in the Club’s heritage collection.
Real Sociedad – 2006
Real Sociedad plate
In his first close season as Leicester City’s manager, Rob Kelly signed Northern Ireland international centre-back Gareth McAuley, former Wales international midfielder Andy Johnson, right-winger Josh Low and central defender Patrick Gerrbrand. He also appointed Paddy McCarthy as Club captain, taking over from Danny Tiatto.
The first opportunity for Leicester City fans to see these new signings came in the pre-season friendly at Filbert Way on 28 July, 2006 in a fixture against
Real Sociedad. The result was a 0-0 draw. At the end of the season, the Basque side was relegated from La Liga after an unbroken spell of 40 years in
the top flight. City finished 19th in the Championship. On the day of the match, this engraved silver tray was presented as a memento by Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid – 2011
Real Madrid pennant
On 5 July, 2011, Walkers Stadium was renamed King Power Stadium. The first match at the newly-named home of Leicester City was a pre-season friendly against José Mourinho’s Real Madrid. The match was billed as ‘yhe inaugural fixture at King Power Stadium.’
The game took place on 30 July, 2011. The Club’s first-ever fan village was erected outside the stadium with the new owners mingling with the fans before the match. The pre-match entertainment was provided by traditional Thai dancers. The whole afternoon created a real sense of occasion. It was a powerful statement which pointed towards a brighter future for the Club.
A record crowd for a friendly fixture at King Power Stadium of 32,188 witnessed Sven-Göran Eriksson’s new signings Kasper Schmeichel, Neil Danns, Sean St Ledger, Matt Mills, David Nugent and Paul Konchesky for the first time. Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad, went 2-0 ahead with goals from José Callejón and Karim Benzema, before Lloyd Dyer excited the crowd with a fine volley in the 88th minute to make the final score 2-1. This Real Madrid pennant marking the occasion was presented to Leicester City at kick-off.
Barcelona – 2016
Thirteen years after the 2003 prestige pre-season friendly on Filbert Way against Barcelona, Leicester City faced the La Liga champions again in another pre-season friendly fixture. This was when the Foxes, as Premier League champions, were invited to participate in the International Champions’ Cup.
Seventeen high-profile clubs were invited to take part, including the current champions of their respective leagues: Leicester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain, Barcelona and Celtic. City’s first game in this tournament was on 23 July, against Brendan Rodgers' Celtic in Glasgow. The score at full time was 1-1, but the visitors won a penalty shootout at Celtic Park.
Seven days, later Leicester City’s opponents were Paris Saint-Germain in Los Angeles, and the hectic schedule continued a week later. Four days before they were due to meet Manchester United in the FA Community Shield match at Wembley, the Foxes faced Luis Enrique’s Barcelona at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. The match is remembered for two fine Ahmed Musa goals for City.
The pennants exchanged between the two captains prior to the game against Barcelona are illustrated above (top), as is the pennant provided for the match by one of the promoters of the tournament, Relevent Sports.
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