2016 BBC African Footballer of the Year: Riyad Mahrez profile

Riyad Mahrez

"You think he puts tape on his feet the way the ball sticks to his foot."

That was an early assessment of 2016 BBC African Footballer of the Year nominee Riyad Mahrez's skills by his childhood friend Madjid.

"We used to fight with one another so Riyad could play on our team," he adds, recalling France-born Mahrez's summer visits to his father's hometown of El Khemis in Algeria - where members of his family still live.

Now the whole world is aware of Mahrez's astonishing ability to seemingly manipulate a football at will - and it is the sport's biggest clubs, not children, who fight to have him on their team.

After inspiring Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2016 in what was probably the biggest shock in English football history, Mahrez was the subject of a large bid from Arsenal and also linked with Chelsea and Barcelona.

The Algeria international had just been voted Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year - the first African to win the award - after he lit up the campaign with his wonderful wing wizardry, 17 goals, 11 assists and multiple moments of magic in 34 league games.

It was the season when Mahrez, who joined Leicester from Le Havre for a meagre £400,000 in 2014, came of age and both he and the Foxes reaped benefits beyond their wildest dreams.

Perhaps one of the most memorable 'pinch yourself' moments came on 6 February at the home of reigning champions Manchester City, when Mahrez clipped the ball past Nicolas Otamendi, sold Martin Demichelis an outrageous step-over and lashed home a fierce shot to put Leicester 2-0 up.

Leicester won the match 3-1 and, with Mahrez contributing another three league goals after that, it undoubtedly spurred them on to a truly stunning success.

Hardly surprising, then, that he was much in demand.

Teams were queuing up to sign the slenderly built Mahrez, a player whose creativity, directness and end product breathed new life into a style of wing play that both excites fans and is a dream for his team-mates.

But the 25-year-old resisted their advances and has since said he was motivated to stay at Leicester to prove himself again.

There can be little questioning of his determination and resilience, with France-born Mahrez having grown up in the tough Parisian suburb of Sarcelles and coped, aged 15, with the death of his father, Ahmed, to a heart attack.

He has scored four goals for Leicester this season - including three in the Champions League - and he has played a huge role in Algeria qualifying for next year's Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

"Riyad makes the team bigger. Everybody now knows Algeria because of Riyad," says Algeria team-mate Mehdi Abied.

"In Algeria we are really proud of Riyad. It's not easy to be the best player of the Premier League. It's something big.

"Everyone in Africa likes Riyad. I remember we went to Ethiopia with Algeria, and they were supporting Riyad more than their team."

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