By: Rania Elhilali
When you think of Algerian soccer players, not many names come to mind. After a minute or two, the name of Riyad Mahrez should generally pop up. The current Manchester City player has been a successful transfer for the Sky Blues. In his first season with City, Mahrez would go on to win the Premier League, FA Cup and EFL Cup with the team. Riyad without a doubt has been phenomenal for the team since he was signed for £60m from Leicester City F.C. in 2018. He was a key player in the lineup for the Foxes for the four years he donned the dark blue jersey. In his first season with Leicester, he helped the club win the Championship and the promotion to the Premier League. In the 2015-16 season he was named the Algerian Footballer of the year, as he helped the Foxes win the Premier League title.
Yet to our surprise Riyad Mahrez hasn’t always been the phenomenal creative player he is today. In his youth years with AAS Sarcelles, he was majorly overlooked due to his slim build. Many at the club would deem this as a major setback for the younger players, however, Mahrez would use his build to his power. He has great balance and flair all while dribbling through the defenders.
Mahrez is a very versitaile left-footed player, who is capable anywhere across the attacking line. He has the strong ability to create creative chances and deliveries to the penalty area, that is sure to create an immense impact on any game.
Riyad Mahrez spotlight has been on him ever since his move to Leicester City and to his playing time in the Premier league, but to move on, Mahrez’s playmaking skills has greatly impacted his national team Algeria.
This impact all began on May 31, 2014, where he would make his international debut. A few months later on October 14th, Mahrez netted his first international goal for the Desert Foxes. Throughout the following years, Mahrez would show to the world, to the country and to me that he deserved a spot on the team. Fast forward to 2019, Mahrez would be called up to the 23-man squad by newly named coach Djamel Belmadi for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Coach Belmadi would also name Mahrez as captain for Algeria, a decision I am sure he will not regret.
Mahrez’s skills would shine through all through the group game stages, as he would creatively assist his fellow team mates from outside the box and from the corner flags. Mahrez would also find himself netting the ball in the back of the net. Riyad had many wonderful moments in this tournament, yet there's one specific moment I’m sure himself and along side with me and the fellow millions of Algerians will remember was the semi-finals against Nigeria.
It was a moment where all breaths were held, as it was the 95th minute of stoppage time. Nigeria committed a foul a couple meters outside of the box, awarding a free kick to Algeria. In the final minute of stoppage time, captain Riyad Mahrez would step up to take the set setpiece, a few steps back and a few steps forward, and there Riyad would do it. He curled the ball into the top left corner to send Algeria to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals where they would win 1-0 over Senegal to get their second ever Africa Cup of the Nations title since 1990.
Mahrez showed the world the player he is during that cup, he proved the impact he can create to a team, with his brilliant touches, assists and sometimes goals. It is without a doubt that Mahrez captained his team to victory in 2019, but he also gives us proof that he really is the Prince of Algeria.