Riyad Mahrez, street fighter
How an urban football upbringing helped to create a future Players’ Player of the Year
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.