Riyad Mahrez starred for Leicester City in a 4-0 win over Swansea City on Sunday, making light of Jamie Vardy's absence, before suiting up to take the PFA Player of the Year honours. In a season that has been crazy as can be, giving Mahrez the Player of the Year gong was as sane as it could possibly be.
As good as Vardy has been this season, Mahrez has been better -- a breath of fresh air, pleasing on the eye with his bag of tricks, but, more importantly, extremely effective. Mahrez has 17 goals and 11 assists already this season in the Premier League. While assists are the name of the game for a playmaker, the 17 goals puts him right up there for the best player of the season award.
Mahrez is not just the kind of player who shines when things are going good; he can rise to the occasion when the team need him as well. On Sunday, against Swansea City, with Vardy out suspended, Mahrez took over the mantle, buzzing around and troubling the Swansea City defence regularly.
The Algerian grabbed a goal – the winner -- in the 4-0 win, and while Leonardo Ulloa took the plaudits for his brace, Mahrez was the star of the show again, showing just how great a deal Leicester made when they bought him from Le Havre for a pittance.
Undoubtedly, come the summer transfer window all the "big" sharks will circle around Leicester, putting in big money to try and tempt the 25-year-old to different surroundings.
Any "big" team in the Premier League could use a player like Mahrez.
Arsenal would have probably won the title had they had someone so effective playing down the right, while Manchester United would have had that player with quality, directness and ability on the ball that Louis Van Gaal has been crying for.
Imagine how effective Chelsea might have been had they had an in-form Mahrez, instead of Pedro, who has struggled to make an impact in the English game in his first season. Liverpool would have found goals easier to come by and a Champions League spot theirs for the taking had they had someone as creative as Mahrez in the squad.
Only Manchester City, probably, have an equally good rival for that right spot, in Kevin De Bruyne. But, if Pep Guardiola fancies it, De Bruyne could be moved to a more central position and the Spaniard could use Mahrez in the right role, with the Algerian then possibly having as much of an impact as Arjen Robben or Douglas Costa.
The beauty of the new Premier League TV deal, though, is that no club will be forced to sell. Leicester shouldn't either, no matter how much money is put forward by the interested teams.
In Mahrez, they have a true star, technically gifted and brilliantly effective, and the longer they hang on to him, the better their prospects of winning more titles.