London, Dec 27 (IANS) With 13 goals and seven assists, Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been a story of the English Premier League (EPL) this season and the Algia international has even surpised his previous club Le Havre’s coach Erick Mombaerts.
Frenchman Mombaerts was instrumental in transforming Mahrez from a foplayer struggling to make the grade in French football to one who is now attracting the attention of Europe’s top clubs.
Le Havre sold the Algerian to Leicester for 400,000 euros in January 2014. The move didn’t create too many headlines — but Jamie Vardy’s livewire strike partner has been hogging them since the start of the season.
“I was confident he would be a success, but I hadn’t imagined that he would become such a major player in the Premier League so quickly. Throughout his first season with Le Havre I had to fight with the leaders of the club just to justify playing him in the first team,” Mombaerts was quoted as saying by mirror.co.uk on Saturday.
“A lot of people were sceptical about his qualities and didn’t believe in him. I’m not sure that too many other clubs in France would have taken a chance on him but we built on the qualities that he clearly had. Riyad was a more complete player when he left Le Havre than when we first had him — he had made huge strides in his defensive play and was physically far more ready for the English league,” Mombaerts, who now coaches Yokohama F. Marinos, added.
“I was very demanding of him because I wanted him to be able to best express his offensive qualities. I would show him videos of Barcelona to show him what I expected of him and what he could achieve.”
The 60-year-old coach said that his 24-year-old ward has grown in confidence.
“He has developed so much confidence. That what has really made the difference, he’s now so decisive,” Mombaerts, who coached Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) between 1987-88, said.
“We still speak regularly and when we do he tells me he’s trying to apply what he learnt at Le Havre. It’s clearly working.”