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Algerian rising star Mahrez's football hike to stardom

Algerian rising star Mahrez's football hike to stardom

Algeria

That Algeria and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season is an open secret. Mahrez who had been named on the 37-man shortlist for the African Footballer of the Year award has been ona a blistering roll.

But like any other player, Mahrez has a story, and his is a story of success. Born in February 1991, he began his carreer as a youth player for French club AAS Sarcelles. Although often overlooked by teams due to his slender build, Mahrez’s ball skills eventually found him suitors. He turned professional in 2009 with Quimper Kerfeunteun Football Club. He spent three years there, before moving to Le Havre.

In January 2014, Mahrez signed for English side Leicester City, helping them win the Football League Championship and promotion to the Premier League at the end of his first season.

Although often overlooked by teams due to his slender build, Mahrez's ball skills eventually found him suitors. He turned professional in 2009 with Quimper Kerfeunteun Football Club.

Mahrez made his international debut for Algeria in 2014 and represented them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Upon his move to English Football League Championship club, Leicester City on 11 January 2014 after signing a three-and-a-half-year contract, his friends and family were initially sceptical of a move to English football due to its physical nature, believing that his style of play would be more suited to Spain.

He made his debut on 25 January 2014, coming on in the 79th minute as a substitute replacing fellow winger Lloyd Dyer, in the 2–0 win against Middlesbrough. After making four substitute appearances for Leicester, including scoring his first goal for the club, an 82nd-minute equaliser against local rivals Nottingham Forest, manager Nigel Pearson announced in February 2014 that he thought Mahrez was ready to start games. Leicester ended the season as winners of the Championship, returning to the Premier League for the first time in ten years.

Mahrez made his Premier League debut on 16 August 2014, and scored his first goal in the division on 4 October 2014 in a 2–2 draw with Burnley. Mahrez was part of the Leicester team that won seven of its final nine matches of the season to avoid relegation to the Football League. He scored both goals in a 2–0 defeat of Southampton on 9 May and ended the season with four goals and three assists from 30 appearances.

He signed a new four-year contract with Leicester in August 2015. On 8 August 2015, Mahrez scored two goals in the season opener against Sunderland in a 4–2 home win. He was later described as the club’s “match winner” by captain Wes Morgan, following “superb form” which saw him score four goals in the first three games of the season.

After scoring four goals in the opening four games of the 2015–16 season, Mahrez was nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month award. By 28 December 2015 he had scored 13 goals in 15 Premier League games. On 5 December, Mahrez scored a hat-trick as Leicester defeated Swansea City 3–0 to go top of the Premier League, putting him on ten league goals for the season and making him the first Algerian to score a Premier League hat-trick.

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