LONDON: Leicester City’S astonishing Premier League title bid has been rewarded early with star forward Riyad Mahrez winning the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award.
Algerian Mahrez, who has scored 17 goals and made 11 assists in 34 league games to take Leicester within reach of their first title, is the first African to win the players’ prize.
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, 20, was named PFA Young Player of the Year, while Manchester City forward Izzy Christiansen won the Women’s Player of the Year award. Sunderland striker Beth Mead, 20, was named Women’s Young Player of the Year.
Mahrez held off competition from Tottenham forward Harry Kane, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, West Ham United midfielder Dimitri Payet and fellow Leicester men Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante to win the award.
The 25-year-old was handed the prize at the Grosvenor Hotel in London on Sunday, hours after scoring in his side’s 4-0 win over Swansea City as leaders Leicester moved to within five points of the title.
Mahrez, who joined Leicester from French second-tier side Le Havre in January 2014, said: “Without my team-mates I wouldn’t get this award. 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.”
Dele Alli, one year ago, was preparing to play at Rochdale for MK Dons having been loaned back to the third division club after signing for Tottenham for an initial £5m in February 2015.
This season he has scored 10 times in 32 top-flight games to help Spurs challenge Leicester for the title. In addition, Alli has made six senior appearances for England, scoring in a 2-0 friendly win over France last November.
Alli was unable to collect the award in person as Tottenham host West Brom on Monday, but former Spurs player and manager Ossie Ardiles collected the prize on his behalf.
The Premier League Team of the Year comprised four Leicester players, four from Tottenham and one each from Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham.
Players from champions Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal dominate the Women’s Super League 1 Team of the Year while Burnley, battling for promotion to the Premier League, have four players in the Championship Team of the Year in goalkeeper Tom Heaton, defender Michael Keane, midfielder Joey Barton and striker Andre Gray.
Former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs, the most decorated player in the English game, won the PFA Merit Award, following in the footsteps of former United greats Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby and Sir Bobby Charlton.