Riyad Mahrez may not have started the FA Cup and Champions League finals last season as Manchester City marched on to the treble, but he played a key role that helped the team arrive in those finals. For starters scoring a hat-trick in the FA Cup semi-final does not happen often.
The Algerian made history, taking home the match ball after a scintillating performance at Wembley to see Man City through to the final. Despite coming from the bench on many occasions he was by no means a fringe player. Whenever he was on the pitch his contributions were noteworthy helping the team win title after title.
Decorated with four Premier League title medals, two FA Cups, three League Cups as well as the Champions League, his time at City remains one to remember. With 78 goals in 236 appearances and 59 assists, the winger leaves with his head held high.
The forward delivered a heart-warming message to the club, manager, teammates and fans to mark his departure.
“To play for Manchester City has been an honour and privilege.” I came to City to win trophies and enjoy my football and I achieved all that and so much more,” Mahrez said.
“I have had five unforgettable years with this football club, working with unbelievable players, fantastic supporters, and the best manager in the world.
“I’ve made a lifetime of wonderful memories and the manner of our Premier League title wins and the battles we’ve had with Liverpool and, last year, Arsenal, underlined our collective desire and mentality to be the best.
“Manchester City will forever be a huge and happy part of my life.”
Glowing comments from Pep Guardiola and other club officials on the player’s departure show just how special Mahrez was during his five hugely successful years at the Etihad Stadium. Although he still had two years left on his contract at City he has now joined Al Ahli on a lucrative four-year deal.
Guardiola has stated he wanted the 32-year-old to stay but the deal was too good for all parties to turn down.
When asked about the move, Guardiola said: “Definitely our thoughts were to stay here, definitely. I enjoyed as a manager to be with him. I had a special relationship with him. Our relationship was with incredible respect. He is one of the guys in my career who I saw who enjoyed the most - he would play today, tomorrow. Incredible skills and technical ability. Loved by the staff, and an important figure in the success we have had in the last five years.
“I wish him and his family all the best, It is not easy to replace this kind of player. He doesn’t feel the pressure. He is a guy who has to play every single day to be happy. I understand completely. I know how tough it was to not play in the FA Cup final and Champions League finals. It was really good to work with him. Really nice. I learned a lot.”
Mahrez will now become teammate to former foes; goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Roberto Firmino both of who joined the Saudi Arabian side this summer from Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
Purely from a fan's perspective, the Algerian will be missed. But we can only wish him the best as he begins a new chapter in his career.