Riyad Mahrez, street fighter

How an ur­ban foot­ball up­bring­ing helped to cre­ate a fu­ture Play­ers’ Player of the Year

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

FFT spent our youth set­ting off car alarms with stray foot­balls, which only at­tracted the neigh­bour­hood watch rather than top-flight scouts.

But for wing won­der Riyad Mahrez, the streets served as an ideal train­ing ground for hon­ing his drib­bling skills and light­ing his cre­ative spark.

The 25-year-old trick­ster was ini­tially ig­nored by acad­e­mies in France dur­ing his teenage years, and had to wait un­til he was 18 be­fore he was fi­nally of­fered a trial with a pro­fes­sional club.

But Mahrez, named PFA Player of the Year ear­lier in 2016 af­ter win­ning the Premier League ti­tle with Le­ices­ter City, be­lieves that his street ed­u­ca­tion may have been a bless­ing in dis­guise.

“Maybe not join­ing an academy was a big ad­van­tage,” he tells FFT. “When you come from the streets, you don’t care – you just play for fun. I think you are at your best when you just en­joy foot­ball and show your qual­ity.”

Though Mahrez did grad­u­ate from street school, he does ad­mit he had a dif­fi­cult time get­ting the bet­ter of one cen­tral de­fender last term.

“John Terry was very tough,” says the Al­ge­ria wide­man. “He has lots of Premier League ex­pe­ri­ence and has seen all the big play­ers, so he knows how to deal with them.”

Just leave JT to us, Riyad. We’d nail him at head­ers and vol­leys.

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