Riyad Mahrez’s case for the Ballon d’Or

The unthinkable has happened. Leicester City have become the champions of England. Yes, Leicester City!

The Foxes, who were on the verge of relegation last season before a last minute surge helped them maintain their top flight status, have gone on to defy all odds and have been crowned Premier League champions. It is a fairytale that is not witnessed in football often, and definitely not at the highest level of the beautiful game.

But it has happened and there are valuable lessons to be learnt for other clubs. Leicester City have shown the virtues of spending efficiently in the transfer market, putting their faith in an experienced manager and mixing the team with a good mix of experienced hands and youth.

There is no way to look at Leicester and say what they have done isn’t a collective team effort. From Kasper Schmeichel in goal to Wes Morgan and Robert Huth in defence, from N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater in midfield to Jamie Vardy up front, they have all been decisive when it has mattered most to see their team reach the top of the standings at the end of the 2015/16 season.

However, if one were to point out one player that has enabled them to earn crucial points all through the campaign, at times through timely strikes and at others through his ability to find the decisive final ball, then Riyad Mahrez is it.

Bought for pittance from French second division side Le Havre in January 2014, Mahrez played 30 games for the Foxes last campaign under then manager Nigel Pearson, contributing four goals and three assists to the team’s cause as they went perilously close to relegation before managing to keep their noses above water in the final standings.

However, the Algeria international came to the fore this season and went on to feature in all but one of the Foxes’ Premier League games. Mahrez made 37 appearances and contributed 17 goals as well as ten assists to help his side to glory.

He began the season with a double against Sunderland in a 4-2 win in the opening game of the campaign and kept contributing at regular intervals to eventually end up as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.

Nonetheless, keeping his season in perspective, a case can be made for the Algerian to have a good shot at being named the player of the year when Ballon d’Or winner is named in January next year.

Granted there are players who have scored more goals and have provided more assists than Mahrez, but then those players have also had an array of spectacular talents around them to help them reach their feats.

It is one thing to play alongside the very best players in world football and quite another to perform at a level that raises the games of not so blessed team-mates and help them reach the ultimate glory.

And that is exactly what Mahrez has done.

He has not scored the most goals in the world, neither has he assisted the most, but the true brilliance of his performances has been to be the shining jewel of a team of nondescript footballers who have upset the applecart and have made the world sit up and take notice. And that is one achievement worth celebrating.

With a Ballon d’Or.