RIYAD MAHREZ IS HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE in the Premier League this season and has already surpassed Eden Hazard’s tally from last season of goals and assists. With just under a quarter of the campaign left to go, and having already bested last season’s player of the year, could Mahrez be up there with the greatest players the Premier League has ever seen?
At the time of writing, Mahrez is 7/4 with http://www.32red.com/jp/ to win the PFA Player of the Year, although he faces stiff competition from his teammate, Jamie Vardy, who 32red, Betway, and Paddy Power have priced at 5/6. The two players have been outstanding this season in pushing Leicester City to such a position of prominence but it could be argued that Mahrez is the superior player of the two. His output from midfield has been reminiscent of Frank Lampard in his glory days and it is truly impressive for a non-striker. But his flair and technique is up there with some of the slickest players in the world.
During the 2014-15 season, Mahrez managed four goals in 30 league appearances. But during most of that season the Foxes were wallowing at the bottom of the Premier League table and they hadn’t quite managed to make the transition to England’s top flight. That all changed when they pulled off a great escape under Nigel Pearson and this is when the young Algeria international started to show flickers of his potential.
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Leicester are still continuing the incredible form that saw them avoid relegation last season and that is why they are 11/10 in the odds to win the title. Mahrez has been a key ingredient to this title push and is one of the reasons that the Foxes are now such a joy to watch. He is an embodiment of the freedom with which Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side are allowed to play and it’s this freedom that has allowed him to display that natural skill and flair that has become such an integral part of his game. A true example of that innate footballing instinct possessed only by the very best was the neat back-heel flick used to set up Andy King’s goal against West Bromwich Albion (see above).
As fans and neutrals alike tune in to see just what this exciting player will produce next, it is intriguing to think just how far he will go this season.
Although greatness should be judged over a period of time longer than a season, it cannot be denied that Mahrez’s achievements this season deserve some recognition. There have been some other great players in the Premier League who have had some truly exceptional seasons as well. Most notably of late was Luis Suárez in his last season at Liverpool. The Uruguay hitman served a five-match ban at the start of 2013-14 and still managed to put away 31 goals in the league. This was one of the most amazing performances by any Premier League player ever.
Lampard was always a prolific scorer of goals from midfield, but his best ever season came in 2009/10 when he managed an astonishing 22 goals for Chelsea in the league. Another explosive midfielder was Yaya Touré and his greatest output was in Manchester City’s title-winning campaign of 2013/14. He was a driving force and put away 20 goals that season and assisted in nine more.
Mahrez may be some way off emulating Suárez’s finest hour in the Premier League, but there is every chance he could beat Lampard and Touré’s records. This would be some feat for a player who is only just starting to make his name.
There is no doubt that a lot of top clubs will be interested in trying to sign Mahrez in the summer. Reports already suggest that there has been some interest from top La Liga clubs, along with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United ready to scramble for his signature. But would this be a good move for the exciting 25-year-old?
Mahrez has a real chance to make a name for himself at Leicester, and could potentially become an all-time great at the club. If his head gets turned by a bigger club, he may no longer be the stand out star in the team, and this could have a detrimental effect on his potential.
But for now, let’s just enjoy watching him add to this fantastic record in 2015-16.