Riyad Mahrez: EPL’s Emerging Winger
It would be extremely tough to find anybody who would have wagered Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez to have performed as well as he has in the 2015/16 season of the English Premier League. The Foxes were last in the standings for most of the season until a spectacular run of results in the final few fixtures pulled them out of the relegation zone and kept them in the lucrative league.
This season has seen them rise to third place by November under the tutelage of new manager Claudio Ranieri. With striker Jamie Vardy banging in the goals, Mahrez has been instrumental overall with seven goals and five assists in City’s brilliant start. The Algerian has caught the most attention with some excellent performances. We delve more into his development as a footballer:
Fulfilling An Ambition
Riyad’s father was the driving force in his quest to become a footballer and groomed him in his early years. He grew up in the northern suburbs of Paris where the prospects of becoming a top-level footballer are quite low. It didn’t really affect him much and after losing his father at the age 15, he used the pain as fuel to further his ambition. Mahrez also decided to play for the Algeria national side as a tribute to his father who had migrated from the African nation to France.
Skinny But Speedy
Mahrez always had the speed to trouble opposition defenders and developed a bunch of tricks along the way. His dribbling abilities have been appreciated right since his early days and the only thing he was criticized was for his lack of physical strength. This was supposed to be his big hurdle to becoming a top footballer and Mahrez proved the critics wrong with the sheer determination to make it big.
The Move To England
He made it to the youth setup of French side Le Havre where he first shone for their second team and gradually made it to the senior side. Then, Leicester City came calling and many people around him discouraged him from considering the move as the English side were playing in the Championship and the football there was considered to be too ‘physical’. They thought of him to be too frail to make it in England and instead advised him to look for clubs in other countries. However, Riyad decided to trust his instincts and made his move across the English Channel in 2014.
Stepping Into The Spotlight
Mahrez played a part in the Foxes’ promotion to the Premier League after joining in January and showed glimpses of his talent in the 2014/15 season. Former manager Nigel Pearson, who recruited him at City, was like a father-figure to him and was dejected after Pearson parted ways with the club. Mahrez’s development was in a bit of a doubt with that news but new boss Ranieri has put all doubters to rest. He has managed to get the best out of the tricky winger and Riyad has taken the season by storm. He has formed a deadly partnership with Jamie Vardy and the duo have scored 19 of the 21 goals that Leicester have scored in the opening 12 games of the season.
His performances led to chatter in the media about potential buyers in the form of heavyweights Manchester United, Chelsea and even Barcelona. The interesting part to see is if Mahrez can keep up the consistency that will separate the good players from the great ones.