Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez making heads turn across the Premier League and beyond

Marc Fox

The impressive opening to the 2015/16 Premier League season by Riyad Mahrez, the Leicester City winger, is one of those classic cases that will have Fantasy Football managers everywhere scratching their heads.

It will come as no surprise to the club's followers that Mahrez has been told to express himself on the pitch by new coach Claudio Ranieri, who replaced Nigel Pearson at the Midlands club during the summer.

Leicester City fans.
Leicester City fans happy with the form of Riyad Mahrez

"Just go create things. I would never change your game. I like how you play" is the message that Ranieri has emphasised with the 24-year-old Algeria international, and that message is clearly getting through with Mahrez's unpredictability firing Leicester towards the summit of the Premier League table.

Indeed, the slightly built midfielder has scored four times to help the club to an unbeaten start this campaign, in stark contrast to the manner in which Leicester only managed to remain in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth last term.

Mahrez's creativity in the final third not only saw him nominated for the Barclays Premier League Player of the Month award for August, but also leaves him streets ahead of some of his rivals when you consider the underwhelming form of last season's player-of-the-season Eden Hazard and the fact that Adnan Januzaj left Manchester United for Borussia Dortmund to earn more match time.

Being born in Sarcelles, in the northern suburbs of Paris, which is almost exclusively inhabited by settlers from North Africa who emigrated in the 1960's, forced the teenage Mahrez to toughen up in order to achieve his dream of playing professionally.

Although Mahrez describes his upbringing as financially stable, his Algerian-born father, Ahmed, passed away when Riyad was 15, leaving his Moroccan-born mother to raise the family alone.

Riyad was determined to make his father proud and proved his ability to make astute decisions off the pitch when he took the opportunity to sign for Le Havre and join their renowned youth academy in 2010 when larger clubs were attempting to entice him.

He has also followed his father's dreams by representing Algeria, earning a place at last year's World Cup as well as playing at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.

He played 60 times in Ligue 1 with Le Havre, scoring six goals, before completing his transfer to Leicester for a bargain fee 18 months ago.

And despite doubts about his suitability to the robustness of the English league, both in his own mind initially as well as by onlookers, he's now starting to thrive.

Mahrez completed more successful dribbles (12) in the club's 3-2 come-from-behind victory against Aston Villa at the weekend than any other player has in a match in Europe's top 5 leagues this season, forcing his agent this week to rubbish suggestions that he is angling for a move to Champions League admirers, including, reportedly, Barcelona.