Algerian Riyad Mahrez finally secured his dream move to Premier League champions Manchester City from Leicester on Tuesday.
Here are three things you probably don’t know in the career of the 27-year-old, who is the latest pivotal figure from the side which pulled off a shock 2016 title win to leave Leicester:
Dad’s death spurred Mahrez to succeed
Mahrez’s Algerian father Ahmed was the driving force behind his son’s early interest in football, but he did not live to see the dream fulfilled in such a successful manner. Ahmed, who had a longstanding heart condition and a pacemaker fitted in his early 20s, died of a heart attack aged 54 when Riyad was just 15.
Instead of allowing grief to take hold and become a negative, Mahrez used it to fuel his ambition to succeed. His death, Mahrez told The Guardian in 2015, “maybe was the kickstart”.
“I don’t know if I started to be more serious but after the death of my dad, things started to go for me. Maybe in my head I wanted it more.”
In 2016, as Leicester closed in on the title, Mahrez went further in an interview with Sky Sports: “Where I am now is all for him.”
Leicester came calling for Mahrez in 2014 after watching him for two years at second-tier French side Le Havre, who have a good record for bringing thorough young talent like Paul Pogba. However, plenty of his circle advised him to try Spain and not English football, due to the physicality of the latter.
“I never thought I would play in England. But I spoke to my agent and he said it would be very good for you,” he told The Guardian. “And I spoke with my family. I said: “OK, I will give it a go,” and when I got here I really liked it. When I started training and playing games I thought to myself: “I was stupid to hesitate.”
In the end, the Foxes secured him in 2014 for £450,000 ($ 600,000) — no other club was interested — a deal that has worked out very well for both parties.
Halilhodzic’s eye for talent
It seems extraordinary given his talent, but Algerian media were not happy when France-born Mahrez was selected by the then-coach Vahid Halilhodzic for the 2014 World Cup squad.
“I saw his potential and invited him to the World Cup,” Halilhodzic told Goal.com in 2016. “I cannot describe what I experience from the Algerian media after that. There was no common sense in their criticism -– some even claimed I took money from Riyad to take him to the World Cup!”
Halilhodzic may have doubted his own wisdom as he dropped Mahrez after their first group match at the finals. However, given the way the player developed at Leicester there is little doubt if Mahrez had remained uncapped, France would have called him up — instead he has accrued nearly 40 caps for the Desert Foxes.