Player Profile - Riyad Mahrez




Leicester City’s Unsung Hero

Personal information
Full name: Riyad Mahrez
Date of birth: 21 February 1991 
Age: 24
Place of birth: Sarcelles, France
Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in) 
Playing position: Winger

Club information
Current team: Leicester City
Number: 26

Youth career
AAS Sarcelles

Senior career
2009–2010: Quimper 27 Appearances, 1 goal
2010–2013: Le Havre II 60 Appearances, 24 goals
2011–2014: Le Havre 60 Appearances, 10 goals
2014– Leicester City 68 Appearances, 18 goals     

National team
2014– Algeria 22 Appearances, 4 goals

The Premier League this season, until now, has been terrific. The underdogs Leicester City have outshined other top clubs and have made their way to the top 4, easily. Often rated too low, this team from King Power Stadium has beaten big clubs in fixtures and proved that one can never underestimate them. Leicester City’s glory has been achieved due to combined efforts of the whole squad. However, the media has often only focused on their key striker, Jamie Vardy. I am not saying that Vardy doesn’t deserve the fame, he surely does. His fairytale from rags to riches has been commendable. No one ever anticipates a player from non league football to break records in the highest flight of league football in England. But, just crediting one player majorly becomes unfair to the other squad members who are equally contributing to the results. And one such player whose efforts go unappreciated is none other than Leicester City’s winger, the 24 year old, Riyad Mahrez. 

Mahrez has been the lionheart for Leicester, but this has always been overshadowed by Vardy’s glamour. However, Mahrez has been a tremendous influence on Vardy’s record-breaking run. The pair seem to always be in sync, with Mahrez creating and Vardy finishing – sometimes vice-versa. It’s worth emphasizing just how unprecedented it is to find two players of such quality for such little money. Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has duly built his team around the two, believing that Vardy and Mahrez can sufficiently outscore opponents and mask the defensive frailties that plague his side. So far, against all odds, it’s working. Riyad has also shown team spirit and always kept the team before his own self. Vardy’s name is surely on everyone’s lips but the Media should be just as wary of Mahrez, whose story could be gaining just as many column inches as Vardy’s if he wasn’t playing in the same team. Mahrez might not have been playing for Stockbridge Park Steels as recently as 2010 but he was turning out for Quimper Kerfeunteun in the fourth tier of the French football league system. His tale happens to be as aspiring as Vardy’s is, as well. And talking about the current state, Mahrez has been titled as the third best player in the Europe. He stands third to the mighty Spanish duo of Neymar and Messi. This was stated by WhoScored.com.  

After a four-year spell with Le Havre in their second and first teams, Mahrez landed in Leicester in January 2014 when the Foxes were still a Championship club on their way to the title and promotion under Nigel Pearson. He signed for a reported £400,000 - far less than the non-league record fee of £1m the Foxes forked out for Vardy in 2012 - and his impact since has been staggering. While Vardy has stolen the limelight, particularly in recent weeks, Mahrez has quietly gone about things and maintained the performance levels that have seen him become one of the league’s most exciting stars. Mahrez has 10 goals in the Premier League; putting him second in the charts behind teammate Jamie Vardy. He has laid on another six assists which makes him the league’s joint-second best creator alongside David Silva, Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin De Bruyne behind Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil who has 12 assists. Where Mahrez has really excelled, though, has been creating space and overlaps by running at - and beating - defenders. He is the Premier League’s most prolific dribbler with an average of 3.7 a game, outdoing the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Wilfried Zaha and Eden Hazard. Mahrez often seems to have the ball magnetised to his feet and has frightening speed, trickery, balance and deceptive strength, making him a master at what has felt like a dying art in the Premier League in recent years. He is lethal when cutting in from the right on his favoured left foot as proved by his stunning strike past Hugo Lloris against Spurs at the King Power Stadium and he has fired off 37 efforts on goal in similar fashion already this season. What Mahrez also has is a real resilience; even when he is dispossessed in his constant mission to beat his marker he is undeterred from trying to do so again. 

Mahrez is “really enjoying” playing for Leicester City and hopes they can continue to play attacking football to keep upsetting the odds. His performances place him head and shoulders above some of the Premier League’s biggest stars. Tune in and enjoy his genius at Leicester. While Vardy is the man in the headlines, Mahrez is Leicester City’s unsung hero.