Leicester forward Riyad Mahrez has insisted the team are under no pressure as they chase a first top-flight title in the club’s 132-year history.
The Algeria international had not expected at the start of the season that, with nine games to go, the Foxes would be looking down from the top of the Barclays Premier League, with a five-point advantage over the following pack.
But he claimed the pressure was far less than at the same point in the 2014/15 term, when they were bottom of the table and needed seven wins from their last nine games to escape the drop.
And, as he nears the end of a remarkable season – which has seen him score 15 league goals and be strongly tipped to be crowned PFA Player of the Year – he brushed off suggestions that he was looking ahead to a possible transfer to a bigger club.
“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “The last games we need to keep working hard and see what we can do. I’m really not thinking about this. I have three more years in Leicester and then we’ll see.”
The 25-year-old was making no predictions of whether City can finish champions, saying: “I don’t know. The future will say that to us.”
But he did admit he did not start the 2015/16 campaign anticipating Leicester would be top of the table in March.
“I wasn’t expecting that, but that’s now the reality,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. I’m pleased.”
Asked whether he was feeling the pressure, he replied: “No pressure. We are playing as always. We will just see what can happen for us.
“We just work hard for everyone. We are just a good team, good team-mates and we are doing well. We have to keep going.”
Mahrez was speaking as he visited the Palace of Westminster to accept a Sportsman of the Year prize as part of the Political and Public Life Awards, voted for by readers of Asian Voice magazine.
He told Sky Sports: “People think we have pressure, but we are just like normal. We have always been like that and we stay like that, like a normal team.
“Now everyone starts talking about us, and that’s normal of course because we are doing very well, but we have to keep going. No pressure, just a bonus. You’re in a good team, you have to enjoy.”
He left no doubt that he felt there was less pressure at the top of the table than the bottom.
“Last year was very difficult,” he said. “Last year we had pressure.
“Last year gave us more experience and we are now in a different situation – we are playing for the title. It’s something crazy, but that’s the reality. You have to enjoy it. I’m very happy, but we have to keep going.”
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz welcomed Mahrez to Parliament for the ceremony.
He said: “I’m delighted that Riyad Mahrez has accepted the award of Sportsman of the Year. He has brought joy and delight and pleasure to all of Leicester and he has become a real icon.
“I’m sure he will get many awards this year, but I’m delighted that this is the first.”