Men's Team

The Riyad Mahrez Story: 10 things we learned

The Riyad Mahrez Story, a new documentary from City Studios, is out now.

The documentary, which chronicles the career to date of our wing wonder, is now available on CITY+ and Recast.

Ahead of its release, we look at 10 things we learned from watching it.

1] He was a huge Marseille – and Zidane fan!

Riyad Mahrez revealed that he grew up as a young boy supporting Olympique Marseille – and idolising Zinedine Zidane.

Despite not playing for The Olympians, Zidane – nicknamed Zizou – was the player Mahrez most looked up as he aimed to make his own way in the game.

He said: “I really liked Marseille. I was in love with that club and was really a fan of all their players. Didier Drogba. Hatem Ben Arfa. All those players.


“But I loved Zinedine Zidane, too. We grew up with Zidane! He was the ultimate player that we were looking up to when we were younger.”

2] JLS tour manager organised St Mirren trip

JL tour manager Jake Duncan, a huge name in the music industry who had also worked with Black Sabbath, Wham, Olly Murs, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen and The Who, was the man who organised Riyad Mahrez’s short-lived trial at St Mirren.

Mahrez had a two-month spell at the then First Division side but eventually he returned home after they delayed offering him a contract.

David Longwell, former St Mirren academy manager, said: “When I was at St Mirren years ago, the guy who I used to deal with was called Jake Duncan. He was the tour manager for JLS.

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“That was his main job but, on the side, he used to bring players in from France.

“So he brought Riyad in as part of a group of five or six, we housed them in a hotel in Paisley called ‘The Abbey Inn Hotel’.

“I tried to keep Riyad as long as I could so we could keep showing his abilities and a decision could be made.”

With no contract imminent, Mahrez took the decision to continue his football journey back in France.

3] He nearly didn’t make breakthrough trial

“Too far. Too expensive”

That was Riyad Mahrez’s reaction to a potential trial friendly game, organised by Edern Le Lann, Head of Recruitment at Quimper.

The match, in June 2009 at Stade de Kernilis, was set to feature around 15 players from all around the area.
Le Lann had been tipped off by Sarcelles that they had a ‘very talented player’ on their books who was thinking about attending.

Mahrez said: “At the beginning, I didn’t want to go. It was too far. Four or five hours on the train. It is on the other side of France.

“With a week to go I started to think. Maybe I’ll go.
“I looked at the tickets but they were too expensive. Maybe 160 or 180 euros.


“I asked my mother and she told me it’s too expensive. I told her not to worry and that I’ll give her the money back.”

Mahrez scored a hat full of goals in the game and ‘made the difference’ according to Le Lann, who looked to sign him.

The president took his time agreeing the deal, though, asking Le Lann finally: ‘Are you sure you want to bet on him?’

To which Le Lann replied: ‘If he doesn’t reach Zidane’s level, he will not be far off.’

Mahrez put pen to paper shortly after!

4] His nickname was the Coquelet

Riyad Mahrez was dubbed ‘Little Rooster’ by his good friend – and then Quimper team-mate - Romain Ouehi.

Taking about the moniker, Mahrez said: “Romain used to call me that because I had a crest on my hair.

“And because of him, everybody called me that!”

Ouehi, discussing the fashionable look, added: “It was trendy among young people at the time.

“As his haircut reminded me of a rooster, I nicknamed him ‘Little Rooster’.

“Coquelet. That’s what I called him.”

5] He thought Leicester City was a rugby team

Riyad Mahrez admits he had reservations about joining Leicester City in January 2014 – and actually thought when he heard the name for the first time that they were a rugby club.

He was, of course, mixing up Leicester City with Leicester Tigers.

He said: “First I never heard about Leicester City. I thought it was a rugby team.

“They pushed for me. It was the winter break in 2013. I went back to Sarcelles. I turned off my mobile.

“I said to myself ‘I’m not going there. I really didn’t want to go”.

“When I came back to restart with Le Havre in January I saw them coming back and pushing more.”

After speaking to Le Havre team-mate Walid Mesloub, who told him staying at the club ‘would not change anything for him’, Mahrez decided to give it a go.


He added nostalgically: “And this really is the best decision I ever took in my life, in my career”.

6] Algerian team-mates laughed off Leicester survival bid

Riyad Mahrez is, unquestionably, a confident man – but he had to fight negativity in his own international dressing room when it came to Leicester’s chances of survival in the 2014/15 campaign.

Gathering for a March international break, Mahrez chatted to his colleagues in the Algerian team about the Foxes fight to stay in the Premier League.

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They told him the Foxes had no chance.

He said: “We were at the tables having lunch with experienced players. And then, they all told me: ‘You are dead. You will never make it. You are going to be relegated.

“There was a guy called Medhi Lacen, who played for Getafe for quite a while. And he always played to avoid relegation with them so he knew those kind of situations.

“And he told me: ‘Riyad. You are done. You have only won three games so far this season and you have nine games left and you think you can win six or seven of those? You are out of your mind. Done and dusted.’

“I said to him ‘I swear. I feel it. You will see.’”

The rest, they say, is history.

7] African award honour

Riyad Mahrez showed his humble side when he became the first African player to win the PFA Players Player of the Year at the end of the 2015/16 season.

During his interview to mark the award, he admitted his shock that he was the first from that part of the world to lift the prestigious personal award.

He couldn’t believe that the likes of Didier Drogba, Chelsea’s famous Ivory Coast international, had not claimed it previously.

Reflecting on it at the time, he said: “I am very grateful. It’s a pleasure. I didn’t know that?

“Drogba never won it?

“It’s an honour, big honour to be the first African to win it.

“Not the best but the first!”

8] He has his own coffee barista

Riyad Mahrez has one key superstition when it comes to matchday – a cup of coffee before kick-off.

And he has his own barista to both make it for him and deliver it to him – Bernardo Silva!

Joking in the documentary, he said: “20 minutes before we go to warm up, he brings me my coffee like a little boy.

“Because he’s scared of me. I told him otherwise I throw you in the ice bath.”

9] AFCON Open Top Bus Parade took seven hours!

Algeria won their final African Cup of Nations in almost 30 years when they emerged victorious in 2019.

They defeated Senegal 1–0 in the final to claim their second title, following their first in 1990.

Mahrez was captain and an integral member of the team, his last-gasp 90 + 5 free-kick winner sending them through in the semi-final in a 2-1 win over Nigeria.

He looks back with great joy at that moment – and the bus parade that followed in capital Algiers.

He said: “It was a 30 minute journey and it took seven hours to get there.


“It was amazing. This passion. It only exists in Algeria.

“Our people are unique. Tough but unique.”

10] He dedicated Riyad Mahrez Stadium to his dad

On the eve of our famous vital last-day victory over Aston Villa last season, Riyad Mahrez flew to hometown Sarcelles to inaugurate a football stadium in his name.

He was invited by the Mayor of Sarcelles, Patrick Haddad, to the unveiling of ‘Stade Riyad Mahrez’.

There was one addition, though, on the plaque to commemorate the ground – the name of his dad, who sadly passed away before his rise to stardom.

He said: “My father lived just in front of it.

“It was a grass pitch before with some, I think, very small wood stands.

“Often I was training there.

“Knowing that this pitch now has my name and my father’s name, it is amazing.”