Algerian coach accused of taking money to pick Mahrez in World Cup 2014 squad

The Leicester City man was unknown at the time and the Algerian media had their say on the selection

Riyad Mahrez' rise to the top of European football has been nothing short of sensational. Following a €500 thousand transfer from Le Havre to Leicester, he has bamboozled the best defenders the Premier League has to offer this year and has amassed 14 goals and nine assists in his 24 appearances thus far.

Few would argue that he is one of the top attacking midfielders in Europe this season but Vahid Halilhodzic, the Algerian National team coach, has spoken of the negative feedback he received when he picked Mahrez for his World Cup squad in 2014. 

“I first heard Riyad's name when ex-coach Christophe Delmotte told me there was an interesting Algerian lad at Le Havre, he didn't play much there but he caught my attention. You could see he was one hell of a technician — he controls the ball brilliantly.

“He moved to Leicester soon after and started playing off the bench. I saw quality. He was technically superior and a sophisticated dribbler, but he had no power. Still, I saw his potential and invited him to the World Cup. I cannot describe what I experience from the Algerian media after that. There was no common sense in their criticism – some even claimed I took money from Riyad to take him to the World Cup.

"Of course, he was not at the level he is today, but it doesn't surprise me how good he is in the Premier League. He's the kind of player that makes a difference. A modern, fantastic player. I knew I didn't make a mistake in calling him up.”

Algeria finished second in their group at the World Cup and Mahrez has gone on to score four international goals in 22 appearances. The Algerian play maker could become a multi-million pound transfer target and Premier League winner in the next few months and has proven Halilhodzic right with his form this season for table-topping Leicester.