Riyad Karim Mahrez was born on 21 February 1991 in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, France. Riyad was the second son of Ahmed and Halima Mahrez.
His father had grown up in the tiny village of El Khemi in the western Algerian countryside, close to the border with Morocco.
He was a gifted student studying mathematics and was also a talented footballer who would go on to play professionally for a number of teams in both Algeria and France.
But Ahmed's life changed forever when he was diagnosed with a heart condition at the age of 23, which meant it was more logical to move to France to receive the specialist treatment he needed.
It was the early 1970s and here, he built a new life in the northern Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, along with wife Halima.
Wahid would be their first born and Riyad arrived a few years later.
The expensive medication Ahmed needed meant the family struggled financially. Ahmed and Halima ensured there was always food on the table and a safe, loving home for their two sons and the family would holiday in Algeria whenever it was possible as Sarcelles was a tough place to live, with a high crime rate and chronic unemployment.
It was home to a large immigrant population, and in 2005 there was widespread rioting in the town after the police shooting of two youths resulted in violent protests and clashes with law enforcement for several days..
Riyad’s parents ensured that their sons remained indoors and safe during the disturbances, but it was a shocking time for all residents of Sarcelles.
"The rioting continued for several days and, if anything, made Riyad even more determined to make a success of his life"
Riyad had joined his local club AAC Sarcelles a couple of years before, with his love of football undoubtedly inspired by his father’s passion and also by the journey of Zinedine Zidane, who was also of Algerian descent and had also lived in a tough Parisian neighbourhood as a boy.
It was clear from an early age that Riyad had magic in his boots with incredible technique, control and skill already surfacing in his youth.
His father was a constant presence by Riyad’s side, advising and guiding him into his early teens until tragedy struck the Mahrez family when Ahmed died of a heart attack aged only 54.
This had a devastating effect on the family and Riyad in particular who vowed to honour his father’s memory by giving his all to become a footballer.
Riyad was only 15 at the time and he later reflected: “The death of my father hit me hard and it was around this time I became more serious about football. This was when things started to really go for me.”
His brother Wahid stepped up to continue guide Riyad, helping as much as he could in their father's absence, while his mother Halima ensured her boys had everything they needed emotionally and materialistically at such a challenging time.
But Riyad had another hurdle to overcome - his physicality. The teenager was told by several coaches that he would never become a professional footballer because he was so lightly-built.
“They said I was too skinny, that everyone will push me off the ball,” recalled Riyad.
“Even though I had good technique, physically I wasn't strong and I wasn't very fast, either. But I always worked hard.”
To overcome his physical disadvantages, he had to ensure his technique and skill were as good as they could be and he practiced hard to ensure whatever he lacked in power, he more than made up for with ability.
And how he practiced!
Morning, noon and often at night, Riyad was described as being 'obsessed' with football and becoming the best he could be.
He was advised by one coach to avoid duels as much as possible because of his slender frame. If he was going to make it, he would have to find a position that best suited his silky skills – and that meant playing on the wing where he had more time and space to take opponents on.
It was the logical thing for the teenager to do and he soon excelled on the right flank with his trickery and breathtaking technique soon bamboozling defenders and often leaving many of them sat on their backside.
He also needed to draw deep on the difficult experiences of his childhood where people had to fight hard to escape poverty. That took guts, mental strength and determination which he possessed in bucket loads.
Just four years after his father had died, Riyad decided to roll the dice. He wasn't progressing with Sarcelles and so won a trial with non-league Quimper in the seventh tier of French football.
Some 600km from the family home, Quimper is a small and picturesque town in Brittany. It was a world away from the unforgiving streets of Sarcelles and, with his brother Wahid now advising him as his manager, a new chapter began for Riyad and his family.
At Quimper, he would play alongside and live in digs with Paul Pogba’s brother Mathias, and he soon attracted the attention of PSG and Marseille who were both interested in signing the talented teenager on as part of their youth programmes. However, Riyad elected to stay where he was and instead learn his trade for the time being.
He wanted to play regular football and to develop his game and Quimper had offered him that opportunity, but he was progressing quickly and soon needed to play at a higher level. So when Le Havre, a second division French side based in Normandy, offered him the chance of a move that would include a pathway to first team football, he agreed terms and joined them in 2009, aged 19.
It would prove to be a very wise decision.
After finding his feet in Le Havre’s second team, he began playing first team football during his second year with the club, and by 2012/13, was a crucial first team member, making 39 appearances and scoring five times.
He had by that time decided to represent Algeria at international level. Though he was born and raised in France, his heart was set on representing the birth nation of his parents and he was soon selected for the Desert Foxes .
"Now being tracked by some of Europe’s top clubs, it was Leicester City that surprisingly made a firm bid for Riyad in 2014."
It was good timing, too as Riyad had become disillusioned with the defensive nature of football in Ligue 2, where he believed teams were only intent of keeping clean sheets or achieving goalless draws.
Foxes chief scout Steve Walsh had actually been in Normandy to watch Le Havre’s Ryan Mendes, but returned to the East Midlands with a glowing report of a young winger named Mahrez instead.
After further scouting trips, Nigel Pearson sanctioned an approach, Le Havre accepted a bid of £450,000 and along with his brother Wahid, they, discussed the prospect of moving to England and a club that were in the Championship at the time.
Riyad had once had a two-month trial with St Mirren but found the climate too cold and returned to France. Would the English weather be that different?
Though Riyad had never even heard of Leicester City, it was a chance to play on a bigger stage so he agreed to leave French football behind and on January 11, 2014, he penned a three-and-a-half year deal with Foxes.
Riyad proved an instant hit at the King Power Stadium, making 19 appearances and helping Leicester to win the Championship in his first six months with the club.
In their first season back in the top flight, boss Pearson had overseen a remarkable run of seven wins in the last nine matches to ensure Leicester retained their Premier League status, but he was still replaced at the end of the season. Much to Riyad’s dismay at the time.
Despite this, Claudio Ranieri took up the reins and the 2015/16 season would go on to become one of the most amazing triumphs in the history of English football as Leicester, against all the odds, stormed to the Premier League title.
At the forefront of the Foxes title push, was Riyad Mahrez, the elegant Algerian winger who could turn defenders inside out with his trickery and technique, and alongside players such as Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater and Kasper Schmeichel, Ranieri’s team proved an irresistible and unstoppable force.
Memorably, many felt the Mahrez-inspired 3-1 win over City at the Etihad Stadium in February 2016, was the day when Leicester realised they genuinely were capable of winning the title - this despite having been made as one of the pre-season favourites for relegation!
A win for City would have seen Manuel Pellegrini’s side go top at the time – instead, Leicester were now five points clear of Spurs and six ahead of the Blues. It was a pivotal swing in the title race that would see the Foxes kick for home early and race to the finish line.
After being crowned champions in May 2016, Mahrez became the first Algerian footballer to win the PFA Player of the Year award, a source of incredible pride to millions of Algerians who by now worshipped the player they called the ‘Algerian Jewel’.
It was always going to be a huge ask for Leicester to repeat what many believed to be a once in a lifetime feat and the ambitious Mahrez was keen to win more titles and play regular Champions League football.
Though Arsenal and Roma were among many clubs to express an interest in signing him, it was City who matched Leicester’s valuation of the player and in July 2018, he moved the 110 miles or so north to join Pep Guardiola’s side.
Not long after, he was given the captain's armband for his country by coach Djamel Belmadi - it seemed everything he'd ever dreamed of was becoming a reality and Riyad would later lead his nation to a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations triumph.
In his first year at the Etihad, he became only the second African player to win the Premier League with different clubs (Kolo Toure being the other) when City were crowned champions after a thrilling title race with Liverpool, Mahrez making 44 appearances and scoring 12 goals in his debut season.
And when his goals saw off PSG in last season's Champions League semi-final, it was Riyad's name that echoed around Algeria.
Algerian journalist Maher Mezahi said: “In Algeria it was really big news. I’d never seen such excitement for a player from an overseas club.
"It was all over social media after City’s victory over PSG in the semi-final and everywhere you went, people wanted to talk about him. During the Eid celebrations at the time, Mahrez was the main topic of discussion when families got together.”
He has now won seven trophies as a City player and started 2022 by being voted the Etihad Player of the Month for December as well as heading to the Africa Cup of Nations as City's top scorer.
There are many more chapters yet to be written in Riyad Mahrez’s remarkable life story, but it is sad that his father Ahmed wasn't around to see his son’s success as it would have made him incredibly proud.
Though, now a father of two daughters himself, his mother and brother have been by his side throughout his journey so far and remain a huge and influential part of his life.
Perhaps Riyad is best summed up by the technical coach at his first amateur club Sarcelles, Mohamed Coulibaly.
“He is still a kid at heart," he told The Guardian's Ed Aarons in 2021.
"He still loves messing around with his friends from Sarcelles like they always used to when he comes back to visit. The biggest thing with Riyad is he loves football. For him, playing is not a job – it’s a pleasure."