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The New Arab

'Algeria's pride': Mahrez voted England's footballer of the year

Mahrez was an unknown when he moved to England two years ago [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 April, 2016

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Leicester City forward Riyad Mahrez has won the English Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year - to the jubilation of his many fans across the Middle East.
Leicester FC winger Riyad Mahrez has become the first Arab and African to be named English football's player of the year, as the Algerian helped his team close in on the Premier League title.

Mahrez was flown by helicopter to the Professional Footballers' Association ceremony in London on Sunday after scoring his 17th goal of Leicester's astonishing title charge, as the league leaders beat Swansea 4-0 at the King Power Stadium in central England.

"I'm very grateful to receive this award," Mahrez said. "It's extra special because if the players vote for me, it's because they've seen I've been great this year, so I'm happy. But it's more team things. Without my teammates I wouldn't get this award."

"The secret has been team spirit," Mahrez said. "We work so hard for each other. We are like brothers, it's everywhere on the pitch. That's our strength.

"If sometimes we are not good, we know we are going to run and make the effort for our teammates."

The 25-year-old is only the second winner of the PFA award from outside England. Uruguay striker Luis Suarez won it in 2014 while playing for Liverpool.

Unlike Suarez, Mahrez was an unknown when he moved to England two years ago, joining Leicester from second-tier French side Le Havre for less than £500,000 (then about $820,000).

Now a guaranteed starter, Mahrez has provided inventiveness and flair to Leicester's attacking play, contributing not only goals but also 11 assists to help transform a team that fought for Premier League survival last season.

Leicester started the season as a 5,000-1 title outsider but the team is now set to become English football's first maiden championship winner since Nottingham Forest in 1978.

Last month, Footballing legend Xavi told The New Arab that Mahrez's stunning performance this season could land him a place at any major European club, including FC Barcelona.

Mahrez's many fans in the Middle East have rallied on social media to congratulate the Algerian footballer, using the Arabic-language hashtag #MahrezIsThePrideOfArabFootball.

"Mahrez has played a historic season well-deserving of the title of best player in the Premier League. Congratulations to Algeria and all Arabs," said Egypt's arguably most-beloved footballer, Mohammad Aboutrika.


Translation: "He is a son of Algeria and makes the country proud."

Translation: "Let's hold our head up high. All Algerians should be proud of [Mahrez] because he has won a massive award."

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