Every season there are a handful of players who surprise and delight fans around the country by exceeding expectations. Memorable examples include Michu for Swansea, a player from mid-table obscurity in Spain elevated to one of the most deadly forwards in the league (albeit just for the one season). Although it’s still early on in this season, Leicester’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez looks to be enjoying some wonderful form. It is thanks to this player in particular that the Foxes are so high up the table, and their final league position is surely going to be dependent on keeping Mahrez fit and firing.
Riyad Mahrez is hailed as a great example of using statistics and set parameters to scout players, having been found by Leicester’s scouting team and bought for just £350,000. They didn’t have the budget to improve on their first team, so looked around for a player who might be able to challenge for a spot in the XI—by scouting the second and third divisions in most of Europe. Mahrez was found playing for Le Havre in the French second division. He played a full season in the Championship under Nigel Pearson—and although he wasn’t spectacular, he played his part in helping Leicester gain promotion and last season he definitely contributed to Leicester’s late run of form that saw them stay up. He is well known to the region now, but if he keeps playing like he is then the rest of the league will sit up and take notice.
Considering Mahrez was signed using statistical analysis, we should actually take a look at his numbers. In four appearances he has scored four times and won the Man of the Match award three times. This kind of form should continue for at least a little while longer, with his new manager comfortable that Mahrez can be relied upon to score goals. Important goals too, including his equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur to salvage a point (and almost take all three). It would be a mistake to focus too closely on his goalscoring exploits, however. Mahrez created an impressive 11 chances last season, joint third in the league behind only Fabregas, Di Maria and Tadic. Considering the respective transfer fees and wages of the players above him, Mahrez has been an absolute bargain for the Foxes, and is sure to command a significantly higher fee if he is sold.
FLIP Sports enthusiasts across the country will be keeping an eye on Mahrez for future games, knowing the Algerian is making a name for himself as a game-changing forward. If he continues in this vein, don’t be surprised to see him become a transfer target by plenty of bigger teams, even as soon as January. Will the Foxes be able to resist overtures that value this bargain player in the millions?