Mahrez winning the PFA Player of the Year would have been laughed off as an ironic joke 12 months ago, particularly since Leicester were still rooted in relegation trouble. But the Algerian’s rise has mirrored that of the Foxes, with the award a deserved honour following a stellar campaign.
Mahrez has proved during the past season to be the nearest thing the Premier League has to a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
A hat-trick at Swansea earlier in the season, a double at Everton and stunning strikes against both Chelsea and Manchester City are just some of the moments that will appear on the Mahrez highlight reel at the end of this season.
Pace, quick feet and an eye for the spectacular have led to the former Le Havre winger mesmerising defences from St James’ Park to St Mary’s Stadium, and there has even been the odd comparison to Messi thrown in for good measure.
Back in December 2015, Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports that “Mahrez is doing things with that left foot that I have only seen Messi do.” Comparisons with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner may be a little premature, but there are certainly some similarities with his fearlessness and willingness to make defenders look rather stupid.
If newspaper reports are to be believed, Mahrez could yet join Messi at Camp Nou next season as he continues to be linked with a summer move to Barcelona.
Mahrez has contributed 11 assists for the Foxes this season, who remain hot favourites to win their first ever Premier League title with just three games left to play.
The Algeria international’s Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy came second in the vote with Tottenham striker Harry Kane finishing third.
“It’s extra special because if the players vote for me it’s because they’ve seen I’ve been great this year so I’m happy,” said Mahrez on accepting the award.
“Without my team-mates I wouldn’t get this award. We are like brothers, it’s everywhere on the pitch. That’s our strength.
“If sometimes we are not good, we know we are going to run and make the effort for our team-mates. That is the secret of our success.”
Mahrez is Leicester’s first-ever winner of the award and also makes history by becoming the first African player to pick up the accolade.
The 25-year-old ‘Algerian Messi’ is also the first winner not to play for Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham or Manchester United since Newcastle United’s Alan Shearer in 1997.
Elsewhere, Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was named Young Player of the Year, Jamie Vardy received an award to recognise his record 11-game Premier Leageue goalscoring streak and Ryan Giggs received the PFA Merit Award.
Mahrez was of course included in the PFA Team of the year along side teammates Jamie Vardy, N’kolo Kante and skipper Wes Morgan.
Whether we are seeing the final weeks of Mahrez’s Leicester career will remain to be seen, but he has certainly created most of the memories that will be treasured for years to come in the east Midlands. The Premier League will be a far less entertaining spectacle without him.