'Bubble' vital for down-to-earth Foxes: Mahrez

LONDON • Riyad Mahrez has insisted that Leicester City's players have been living in a "bubble" as they attempt to secure the club's first Premier League title.

The Algerian, who this month became the first African to win the PFA Player of the Year, has been a driving force behind Leicester's remarkable season, scoring 17 Premier League goals.

In an interview to celebrate his achievement with France's L'Equipe magazine, where Mahrez is pictured on the front cover, the 25-year-old admitted the phenomenal rise of Claudio Ranieri's side had even taken him by surprise.

When asked if he is aware that the whole of Europe is willing Leicester to win the title, Mahrez replied: "Not too much, no. Although we feel something is happening in England, but we live a little in our bubble.

"We do not have the best players, nor the biggest budget, but our solidarity compels admiration. We had a bit of luck too. It was this year or never. Until January, we did not think of the title.

"It has become possible, but we will not let it go to our heads."

With a seven-point lead over second-placed Tottenham, Leicester know that a victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford tomorrow would make them champions.

But Mahrez, who came through the youth system at French club AAS Sarcelles before moving to amateur side Quimper and then Le Havre in Ligue 2, admitted not much had changed at Leicester's Belvoir Drive training ground despite team-mates Jamie Vardy and N'Golo Kante also being included on the PFA shortlist.

"We were not programmed to become pros. We live with some form of carelessness," said Mahrez.

"With N'Golo, we laugh. It's impossible in our history, even if nothing is done. Wes Morgan, our captain, was also discovered belatedly. But frankly, internally, there is no difference between conventional pros and us.

"It's nice. Jamie Vardy and myself, we have fun during matches. With him, it shows on TV more than me, but we're all casual.

"I am a very funny guy... I'm having fun. In France, in the clubs where I was at, I was a little Jamel Debbouze (a French comedian). A little less here in England."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline ''Bubble' vital for down-to-earth Foxes: Mahrez'. Print Edition | Subscribe