Why Leicester's Riyad Mahrez has been one of the stars of the season
Published 15/12/2015 | 13:41
Riyad Mahrez has been instrumental for Leicester as Claudio Ranieri's side have emerged as this season's surprise package to lead the Barclays Premier League.
Another goal and another assist helped the Foxes defeat reigning champions Chelsea on Monday night as the little Algerian continued to enhance his growing reputation.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the attributes that have made Mahrez one of the stand out performers in the top flight so far this campaign.
The £400,000 Leicester paid French club Le Havre in January 2014 is looking like a snip. Understandably, it has taken the young Algerian time to adapt to the Premier League but now, after a season and a half finding his feet, Mahrez has really come to the fore.
The little magician gets fans off their seats and is a joy to watch and, more importantly, he is effective. Mahrez has been directly involved in 18 of the 34 goals that Leicester have scored in the league this season, putting him firmly on course to be a contender for Player of the Year.
You will be hard pressed to find a player who represents better value for money so far this campaign.
Mahrez had scored just seven goals for Leicester, three of them coming in the Championship, prior to the start of the 2015-16 campaign. He always looked capable of adding goals to his game as he developed but nobody could have envisaged him being quite so prolific this season.
His superb strike against Chelsea on Monday night was Mahrez's 12th of the season - his 11th in the Premier League. By anyone's standards, that is a terrific return from a midfielder but perhaps what makes it more remarkable is the fact he has done it in an unfancied team who were tipped to struggle.
His three goals in the 3-0 win at Swansea this month saw Mahrez became only the third Leicester player to score a Premier League hat-trick, after Ian Marshall and Stan Collymore.
A goal maker as well as a goalscorer, Mahrez has been the key supply line to Jamie Vardy this season. His team-mate will surely admit that Mahrez was instrumental in his recent record-breaking run of scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League matches.
The 24-year-old has seven assists to his name already with only Arsenal's World Cup-winning playmaker Mesut Ozil having set up more goals.
Mahrez has a wand of a left foot and there was no better demonstration of it than against Chelsea on Monday night. His vision to spot Vardy's run and his execution to then find his team-mate with a lovely curling cross to the front post was bettered only by his goal later in the game.
The first touch to bring the ball under his spell from Marc Albrighton's deep cross was instant. He then turned Cesar Azpilicueta one way then the other until he had the yard of space he needed to bend the ball around Thibaut Courtois and into the far corner of the net.
It was a finish we saw earlier in the season against Tottenham and one we will see again before the season is over.
All of which of course means Mahrez is attracting the attention of other clubs. The likes of Manchester United and Arsenal have already been linked with a move for him during the January transfer window.
However Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri insists no one can afford to buy Mahrez, or Vardy, and that all bids will be knocked back.
''Nobody can buy them. They don't have the money to buy them,'' said the affable Italian.
''I don't want to put a price on them. For me they don't have a price."