Leicester forward Riyad Mahrez has been crowned the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year after playing a pivotal role in the Foxes’ dazzling campaign which sees them on the cusp of a maiden top-flight title.
Mahrez, fresh from scoring in Leicester’s 4-0 thrashing of Swansea, fought off competition from team-mates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante, West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
The 25-year-old Algerian, who was signed for £400,000 from French side Le Havre in 2014, is the first African player to win the PFA award and only the second non-European after Luis Suarez, formerly of Liverpool.
“I’m feeling good,” said Mahrez, who has scored 17 goals and registered 11 assists this term. “I’m very grateful to receive this award. It’s a pleasure. If they [fellow professionals] vote for me it is because they have seen I have been great this year.
“I didn’t know that [first African player to win PFA player of the year]. [Didier] Drogba never win it? It’s a big honour to be the first African, not the best but the first.”
Tottenham’s 19-year-old midfielder Dele Alli won the PFA young player of the year accolade after a debut Premier League season which has brought 10 goals and nine assists.
Tottenham great Ossie Ardilles collected the award on behalf of Alli, who was absent as Spurs continue their preparations for tonight’s clash with West Brom. Manchester City’s Izzy Christiansen won the women’s player of the year award and Sunderland forward Beth Mead the young player. Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs won the PFA merit award.