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, Vardy needs to be thankful to Mahrez since the Algerian has set up several goals of his. Mahrez is one of the reasons behind Vardy’s heroics. Riyad has also shown team spirit and always kept the team before his own self. This was seen in the game against Watford where Leicester won 2-1 and Mahrez showed no signs of selfishness. When Vardy won Leicester’s penalty, initially Mahrez picked up the ball to take the penalty. That obviously came as a blow to Vardy as he had assumed that Mahrez would let him score. However, Mahrez wasn’t to be blamed here because he is usually Leicester’s designated taker. The Algerian winger has already been successful twice from 12 yards this season and he has played a crucial role in Leicester climbing to third in the table, scoring seven league goals and tormenting full-backs with his bewitching wing play, but the crowd made it clear that they wanted the headline act to take the penalty.
So eventually, Mahrez decided to hand over the ball to Vardy who was growling in the background. Mahrez showed team spirit and let Vardy complete his hunger for goals, too. “Riyad is our penalty taker and it just shows what kind of team we are,” Danny Drinkwater said. “Riyad realised the run Jamie was on and passed him the ball – and credit to Riyad. He has just shown what a team player he can be.”
Vardy’s name is surely on everyone’s lips but the clubs 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. Riyad Mahrez might not have been playing for Stocksbridge 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 enjoys all the fame, Mahrez continues to perform well game after game, under the shadow. He has maintained his form and has always done his job, quietly. Mahrez has seven goals in the Premier League, putting him joint-fifth in the charts alongside Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud and a certain Sergio Aguero. He is the league’s joint-second best creator alongside David Silva, Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin De Bruyne behind Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil who has 11 assists. 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.
So while Vardy is the man in the headlines, Mahrez is Leicester City’s unsung hero.
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