Just recently Riyad Mahrez put a free kick in the top bin for Algeria, sending his country to the African Cup of Nations final. It’s a far cry from when Mahrez was trying to escape St Mirren on a bike.
In 2009, future winner of multiple Premier League titles and a Premier League player of the year Mahrez had an unsuccessful trial period in Paisley.
Raised in France, the Algerian impressed for his local amateur side AAS Sarcelles as a kid. At 17, having never played any football outside of France, Mahrez went to St Mirren for a trial.
A St Mirren nightmare for Mahrez
For all the talent he had, the winger clearly hated Scotland and he has made no effort to hide that fact. Also by his own account, he scored seven goals in four matches while on trial, but St Mirren weren’t quick to hand him a deal.
He told L’Équipe magazine back in 2016: “It went well. I played four friendlies and I scored seven goals. I killed them. And then they made me wait. Two-and-a-half months.
“I’d had enough. It drove me crazy, Scotland. It was cold. It was abuse. It was snowing and everything. I was so cold that one day I faked an injury to go to the locker room.”
Fuming that he hadn’t been offered a deal after some impressive performances, Mahrez done what any normal citizen would do in that situation. ‘Borrow’ a bike from the hotel you were staying and flee the country.
His agent had booked him a flight home to Paris, now all he had to do was leave without anyone noticing he had gone.
Mahrez explained to L’Équipe how he done it: “I wasn’t allowed to go, so I left in secret. I packed my bag and I left without telling anyone. Not even the woman in the hotel. I left via a staircase which avoided reception.”
With that, Mahrez was on the plane to France, never to return to the Paisley outfit.
It’s been quite the rise since there
Since that awful period Mahrez has enjoyed a fantastic career. His next club after St Mirren was French four tier side Stade Quimperois.
From the fourth tier side he joined Le Havre, before joining Leicester City and becoming one of the main catalysts in Leicester’s run to capturing the most unlikely Premier League crown in English football history.
He joined Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City last summer and scooped another Premier League crown. According to Talksport, he went to the Etihad for £60 million, which made Mahrez the most expensive African footballer.
This winger is a far cry away from the one that turned up in Paisley. Mahrez made no impact in Paisley, although his story of using a bike to escape the club is one to look back on and wonder, how has he managed to make it to the very top?
Who knew that 10 years on from his St Mirren escape, he’d have turned into a global superstar at one of the world’s biggest clubs.