Riyad Mahrez became the first ever African PFA Player of the Year at the annual event in London on Sunday.
The Leicester playmaker fought off competition from his own team-mates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante – with whom he flew to the ceremony via helicopter – as well as West Ham United’s standout star of the season Dimitri Payet and the league’s top scorer Spurs’ Harry Kane to take home the prize. Arsenal were also represented on the shortlist by Mesut Ozil, but Manchester United andManchester City were not.
It has been an astonishing year for the Algeria international who has scored 17 goals as well as making 11 assists in his 33 Premier League matches. Leicester are now just five points away from securing their table-topping fairytale ending after a 4-0 victory against Swansea.
Hailing from the rough Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, Mahrez signed for Leicester in January 2014 from French Ligue 2 team Le Havre where he had risen up the ranks from the team’s youth programme.
The midfielder – whose transfer value had risen from £4.5m to £29.9m according to CIES Football Observatory in January this year – signed a new four-year contract with the Foxes in August last year, and they will certainly hope to keep hold of him as they go into the Champions League next season.
He praised the contribution of his team mates and manager Claudio Ranieriafter being voted the best player in England by his fellow professionals.
“All the credit is for them, seriously,” Mahrez said. “And for my manager and the staff. Without them I wouldn’t receive this award and I wouldn’t score. It’s the team spirit, and I want to dedicate it to them.
“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. Without my team mates I wouldn’t get this award.”
Mahrez also spoke of his pride at being the first African player to receive the award.
“It’s an honour to be the first African – not the best but the first,” Mahrez added.
Spurs’ boy-wonder Dele Alli, meanwhile, was crowned the Young Player of the Year.
The 20-year-old fought off tough competition from team-mate Kane and fellow nominees Jack Butland, Philippe Coutinho, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.
Though it was not announced until Sunday night through the official channels, the youngster was widely expected to take home the coveted prize after a picture of Spurs’ Monday night match programme referring to Alli’s victory was posted on Twitter.
Unfortunately for Alli, he wasn’t able to attend the event as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had banned his players from attending due to their game againstWest Bromwich Albion tomorrow night, in their final charge against Leicester for the league title.
Speaking in a video recording for the PFA, Alli said he was “honoured to win such a prestigious award.”