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Saturday 23 June 2018

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It's not always all about money

Liam Miller: ‘A genuinely nice guy. Always polite, he never crossed the line, never took anything for granted and always respectful and level-headed.’ Photo: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
Liam Miller: ‘A genuinely nice guy. Always polite, he never crossed the line, never took anything for granted and always respectful and level-headed.’ Photo: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

Riyad Mahrez has done the right thing and gone back to work, committed himself to Leicester again. The only way he can sort his head right and get back on track is on the training ground and back in the Leicester team.

When he first stayed away from Leicester, following the breakdown of his transfer deadline day move to Manchester City last week, I had some sympathy. The lad must have been genuinely heartbroken and there was no way he could roll up as if nothing had happened.

And then I saw that Leicester are playing Manchester City this weekend, just over a week after the move collapsed. There was no way he was going to be in the right frame of mind for that game and it was probably best for everyone that he stayed away. When I first saw him arriving at the Leicester training ground, I thought it was pure attention-seeking but he has said and done the right things. And now the Manchester City game is played, he needs to get his arse back in to work. He has made his point.

This is not about money for Mahrez. Sometimes, as a footballer, it is about the attraction of a big club, what that brings to the table and the dreams you can create for yourself. As you get older, you dream about the things you can achieve in your career and the better you get, the more you dream.

Winning the Premier League title with Leicester was beyond belief for Mahrez and his team-mates but as a sports person, you always want to be thinking higher and bigger and setting new targets. Manchester City are going to win the Premier League this season, they are still on for all four trophies, so of course Mahrez wanted a part of that.

The January transfer window is like a game of poker sometimes and you need an injury for a move to happen, which is what happened in Mahrez's case. I suspect if Leroy Sane had not been injured against Cardiff City in the FA Cup, Mahrez would not have been on City's radar so suddenly.

He is not a world-class player, he is the level below that. I thought the £65 million fee which was being quoted was far too high for a player who might find himself on the bench once all the City midfielders are fit. In fact, it would not surprise me if there is no move to Manchester City for Mahrez in the summer, and they start to look elsewhere. Mo Salah at Liverpool is that level above Mahrez. You are not telling me City are not interested in Salah and have not already made inquiries to find out what his transfer clause at Liverpool is.

Mahrez has done well at Leicester and he is a very good player but he is not a player who is going to be a game-changer in the Champions League, for example.

Sometimes you have to be prepared to work for your money and your success, and that is where Mahrez will find himself for the next few weeks and months. He won't like it but he has to start all over again to convince City and Guardiola he is the right man for them. They won't want him to sulk and sit out the next few months, if they are still serious about signing him. City players have an edge and, like Barcelona, they are as good without the ball as they are with it. Can you really say you have seen that in Mahrez at Leicester?

Hard work. Something Wes Hoolahan knows well. He earned every single one of his 43 Ireland caps, maximised his international career and has rightly got some recognition for that in the last week since he announced his retirement.

Would he have won more caps if Brendan Rodgers, for example, had taken the Ireland job three or four years ago? Probably. But I tell you what. He won four more than me and I bet Glenn Whelan would still have won the same amount, which is double Wes.

In ten years, when he is playing five-a-side football, Wes will still have the same skill levels because he is so natural. He doesn't run or sprint and get in people's faces, he glides with that low centre of gravity and he is lovely on the eye.

If he was going to play in my team, he would have played in a three-man midfield with one holding and one box-to-box attacking. You need legs around him and centre-forwards prepared to do some work in front of him and get him into positions to receive the ball.

But not all managers would feel the same and be prepared to take a gamble on him. Maybe that is why it took so long for him to reach the top and play for Ireland. That's just the way it is. Natural, gifted players like Wes are rare and should be encouraged, not held back.

Like the rest of the football community, I was shocked to hear of Liam Miller's passing. It is so hard to take but the football is irrelevant at times like this. First and foremost, he was a young father and husband and this must be an incredibly difficult time for his lovely family.

Liam was just a lovely lad, a genuinely nice guy. Always polite, never crossed the line, never took anything for granted and always respectful and level-headed. You certainly would not look at him and think he had played for Manchester United. There was no edge or arrogance. He was very humble.

I can remember playing golf a few years ago with Liam, Colin O'Brien and John O'Shea, two Cork lads versus two Waterford lads, and it was just one of those really enjoyable days in great company. Liam was just good fun, plenty of banter and crack and laughs.

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