Mahrez wins ‘extra special’ PFA player of year award
Riyad Mahrez is the first African footballer to win the Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year award – but he kept the ceremony last night waiting with a late arrival.
The Leicester City contingent, flying on four helicopters from the King Power Stadium to Battersea heliport, arrived at the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane, central London, at only around 9.30pm.
Mahrez, 25, was accompanied by his team-mates who made the decision to come en masse once it became clear he had won. Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante were also on the six-man shortlist.
The players were sent on their way with the best wishes of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after their 4-0 win over Swansea City that put them five points away from winning the Premier League title. Mahrez dedicated his win to his team-mates and manager, Claudio Ranieri. “All the credit is for them, seriously,” Mahrez said.
“And for my manager and the staff. Without them I wouldn’t receive this award and I wouldn’t score. It’s the team spirit, and I want to dedicate it to them.
“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 am happy. Without my team-mates I wouldn’t get this award.”
Mahrez also spoke of his pride at being the first African player to receive the award won last year by Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard.
“It’s an honour to be the first African – not the best but the first,” Mahrez added.
The Tottenham and England midfielder Dele Alli won the PFA’s Young Player of the Year award, news that had already inadvertently been announced during the day.
Ryan Giggs joined a long line of Manchester United greats by winning the PFA Merit Award.
The former winger followed in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby and Sir Bobby Charlton in picking up the prize, which is given for “meritorious service to football”.
Giggs made a club record 963 appearances for United and remains the most decorated player in the English game.
“I’m chuffed to have won all three awards, the young player was a long time ago and then the player award was a big surprise,” Giggs said. “This is the culmination of around 25 years since my debut, so it’s a credit to myself, my teammates, staff, family and friends.”
Pride of Leicester: Riyad Mahrez became the first African footballer to win the PFA Player of the Year award