Danny Simpson backs Riyad Mahrez to go from strength to strength
Published 25/04/2016 | 22:41
Danny Simpson is confident Riyad Mahrez will not drop off like PFA Player of the Year predecessor Eden Hazard, warning the best is yet to come from his Leicester team-mate.
Last season the Belgium international's key role in Chelsea's Barclays Premier League title triumph was deservedly recognised by his peers, as well as being named the FWA Footballer of the Year.
Hazard has been a shadow of himself this term, though, and only managed his first Premier League goals of the season in Saturday's 4-1 win at Bournemouth.
The following day, Mahrez opened the scoring as leaders Leicester swatted aside Swansea 4-0, before hot-footing it down to London to collect the PFA Player of the Year award.
"He believes in himself, he wants to score every game and create goals," Leicester right-back Simpson said. "Behind, I just encourage him.
"Sometimes if it is not going for him I say 'don't worry' because you know with Riyad that he just takes a second and he will do something magic.
"He is hungry, I don't think he is the type of player who will perform like this this season and think that is that.
"I think he will only want to do more next year and he will kick on. I am sure with the people around him that he will do that."
Unable to select a Leicester team-mate, Simpson's vote for PFA Player of the Year went to Dele Alli.
The 20-year-old midfielder was crowned Young Player of the Year after a season in which he has helped Tottenham keep the pressure on Claudio Ranieri's men, although Spurs and Alli suffered a blow on Monday evening after being held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom.
That result leaves them seven points behind the Foxes, who can clinch the title with victory at Manchester United on Sunday, and it could be even worse for Alli, who may face a retrospective ban for appearing to punch West Brom's Claudio Yacob.
Ahead of that potentially fatal blow for Tottenham, some had suggested Leicester may well be usurped at the top, especially with top scorer Jamie Vardy suspended, but Sunday's 4-0 home win against Swansea dampened such talk and Simpson says it has actually helped the team.
"If anything that spurs us on - it does," he said. "We have been like that all season when people start doubting us or there are negative stuff.
"Within the dressing room and within the group it only make us want to prove people wrong even more.
"I think every time we have dropped points or something has gone against us we have always reacted in the next game. We did that.
"Spurs have been playing really well. We have been winning 1-0, 1-0 and they have been banging the goals in, winning 3-0 against United and 4-0 at Stoke.
"We kind of expect that but we can only concentrate on ourselves. When we hear things like that, within our dressing room we are so close, it just makes us even closer."
The togetherness was highlighted by the fact the suspended Vardy was with his team-mates throughout the build-up to Swansea, despite suspension then forcing him to watch from the stands.
The 29-year-old could yet miss more of Leicester's run in after accepting a Football Association charge for improper conduct, but replacement Leonardo Ulloa's brace highlighted their strength in depth.
"He is a top-class player," Simpson said of Vardy.
"He is one of the best strikers in the league but the lads see the other boys every day and we know what we can do if they come in the team.
"We had to change our style a little bit but we have worked on it this week and it has paid off."