Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez has been named the PFA Men’s Players’ Player of the Year 2016.
Riyad Mahrez’s first coach called him “a gem in the rough” for his undoubted talent. Nowadays, the Algerian is a 100-carat diamond in the richest league in the world.
For those who watched Leicester soar out of the Championship and then put together that remarkable run to stay in the Premier League, Mahrez’s performances have not been such a surprise.
However, the way in which the 25-year old wing wizard has been a key element in Leicester’s magical march to the top of the Premier League has made Mahrez one of the most sought-after talents in Europe.
Born in a poor suburb of Paris, losing his father while a young teenager and being thought of as too frail to make a top footballer, Mahrez has overcome a few obstacles along the way. Even signing for Leicester from Le Havre in the French second division was something of a chance happening, as the Midlands club had gone to scout another player that day, but Mahrez stole the show. He also helped Leicester to the Championship title and then his goals and assists were instrumental in the club’s superhuman survival effort last term.
This campaign he has tormented defences from London to Liverpool. Two-footed and fast, his ball control and dribbling skills have seen him light the fuse for Leicester’s goal machine, Jamie Vardy. Mahrez himself has also been prolific, though – scoring with left and right boot, close in and from far out, and even grabbing the odd headed goal.
Now the Algerian international stands on the brink of an extraordinary end to an extraordinary season, with a place in the Champions League assured and even the ultimate, the Premier League title itself. As former team-mate Mathias Pogba, brother of France and Juventus midfielder Paul, says: “With the ball at his feet he’s unstoppable.” So, it seems, is Mahrez’s rise.