Risk of Leicester hero dropping standards with PFA award burden
Defender-duping antics, a superb collection of goals and numerous assists helped earn Riyad Mahrez the PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award in 2015/16 and news the 25-year-old is set to remain at Leicester offers huge encouragement to the Premier League champions.
Alongside fellow shortlisted nominee Jamie Vardy, the Algerian wing wizard and his goal-happy accomplice became the poster boys of the odds-defying dream that was Leicester’s title win.
Vardy, who set a new record of 11 for scoring in consecutive Premier League games, has already shown Mahrez the way by ignoring Arsenal’s advances and pledging his future to the Foxes.
Coveted midfield N’Golo Kante clearly didn’t receive the memo having signed for Chelsea in the past week, but in the aftermath of that disappointing development, Claudio Ranieri has gone on the record to insist that Mahrez will not be prised away by any such suitors – cue jubilation at the King Power Stadium.
Justifiable though the celebrations would be on the basis of his phenomenal personal campaign, there is a slight shadow stalking Mahrez in the form of the award he scooped in April.
There is a chance the former Le Havre man will take a leaf out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United book and go on to win the accolade two seasons in succession, but, when you consider what the Euro 2016-winning captain would go on to become, then that’s difficult to foresee.
The only other man to win back-to-back awards was Thierry Henry in his Invincibles pomp, so emulating either legend of the game seems improbable if not impossible.
More likely, judging by the fate of its other recipients over the last decade, a struggle to reproduce the goods so consistently might be expected.
Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard was the 2005/06 winner having scored 10 times in the top flight, four more en route to FA Cup glory and 23 in total as the Reds finished a point shy of United in third, but then he could only muster 11 in all competitions the next season as they finished 21 points in arrears of their bitter rivals.
The other side of Ronaldo’s 2007/08-‘08/09 double, teammate Ryan Giggs did actually improve his goals and assists count, though Wayne Rooney fell off a goal-scoring cliff after earning the award in 09/10 following a spectacular 34-goal season. He notched just 16 for the Red Devils in his PFA hangover campaign in 2010/11.
Gareth Bale was another to offer Mahrez encouragement after Tottenham’s bad-luck charm, turned world beater, actually improved his output statistically speaking in the 2011/12 campaign following PFA recognition, netting two more league goals and increasing his top-tier assist tally by nine. (He would earn a move to Real Madrid off the back off the back of his second award in 2012/13).
Robin van Persie may have helped his new Old Trafford teammates to the title in 2012/13, though the Dutch centre-forward could not quite reproduce his most prolific ever campaign in England the season prior with Arsenal that saw him crowned.
It’s a little harder to judge 2013/14’s recipient, as Luis Suarez moved from Liverpool to Barcelona for the start of the 2014/15 season, albeit his own scoring wings were clipped during it, if only by six goals.
Mahrez’s PFA predecessor offers the starkest warning of complacency though as Eden Hazard literally disappeared after storming to the award in unanimous fashion the season before last.
The general Chelsea implosion can be cited, as well as a questionable mentality perhaps. Even so, Mahrez must go into the new season with the attitude that his career zenith has not yet been reached, as hard as that could be.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.