Leicester forward Riyad Mahrez says former manager Nigel Pearson “deserves credit” for their remarkable turnaround that has seen them go from relegation favourites to Premier League title challengers.
The Foxes defied all odds last season by achieving the “great escape” in clinching Premier League survival, and are now favourites for the Premier League title in an unprecedented turnaround.
Claudio Ranieri’s side face fellow title challengers Arsenal at the Emirates stadium on Sunday knowing that a win would see them go eight points clear of the Gunners.
Algerian international Mahrez has been instrumental in their stunning Premier League season, scoring 14 goals and providing 10 assists.
But the 24-year-old insists that former manager Nigel Pearson “deserves credit” after bringing the player to the club in a £350,000 deal from French club Le Havre.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Mahrez said: “Nigel was very good with me. He knew I didn’t speak much English when I arrived, so he spoke more slowly to me and he tried to teach me good things as well.
“It was difficult in the beginning but now it’s OK. Does he deserve credit for where we are now? I think so, yeah.
“He brought all the players to the team, apart from maybe a few. Even if we finish sixth or seventh now, he deserves credit because he built this team. He didn’t have the luck to carry on.”
Current manager Ranieri has endured a series of near misses in title challenges at former clubs including Monaco, Roma, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia.
And although Mahrez doesn’t know whether that motivates Ranieri, he claims that the Italian “always wants to compete”.
“I don’t know if that motivated him, but he isn’t satisfied to finish in the middle,” said the Algerian.
“He always wants to compete near the top – that shows he’s someone who deserved to be working here at this level.
“I think he’s taken all the best things from his experience of working with lots of different players, and has brought out the best in each of us.
“Usually he will tell me the good things I’ve done, or that I did a good job for the team, but sometimes he will start with the bad things – even if I have scored.
“He might say I was good with the ball offensively but I needed to work more on the defensive side, and you always know he is there on the touchline.”