Mahrez reveals how Guardiola ruined his chances of winning CAF African Footballer of the Year

Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez has made a strange declaration concerning the CAF African Player of the Year award ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations set to begin in Egypt. The Algerian international won the 2016 African Player of the Year award and is regarded as one of the best players from the continent.

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Mahrez took the world by storm in 2016 following his imperious form with Leicester City, helping the Foxes to clinch the 2016 Premier League title. He was included in the PFA Team of the Year and picked up the PFA Player of the Season award following his remarkable feats. The talented winger attracted a lot of attention from the biggest clubs in Europe before he made the big-money move to Manchester City in the summer of 2018.

The transfer fee of £60m made Mahrez the most expensive African footballer, and also Manchester City’s most expensive signing and a record transfer fee received by Leicester City. However, the winger had to endure a roller-coaster campaign in the just concluded season with Manchester City, where he was limited to 14 league starts. Guardiola did not show a lot of trust in the African star preferring Bernado Silva ahead of the Algerian winger.

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Despite his limited starts, Mahrez helped Pep Guardiola’s men win a treble; the English Premier League title, FA Cup and League Cup but he agrees that his lack of playing time will not allow him contend for the CAF award. Ahead of the 2019 AFCON, he revealed that Liverpool duo; Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah are leading the race to clinch the CAF African Player of the Year award following their stunning performances for Liverpool last term as they went on to lift the UEFA Champions League.

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“I must be realistic. I was up there (Caf Award 2016) in the best African players but this year considering my playing time, I think it’s between Mane and Salah,” the former Leicester City man revealed to Al-Kass. He also downplayed the expectations of Algerian fans ahead of the continental showdown explaining that the Desert Warriors were not favourites to win the title.

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Mahrez believes that Algeria’s status as an underdog in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will ease them from pressure. The 28-year-old sees Egypt as favourites for the African title but he is pleased with their status as an outsider. The North-Africans have a difficult hostory in the tournament, having failed to reach the semi-final stage since 1990. Their last outing ended in disgrace as they were knocked out at the group stage round in 2017.

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The Manchester City man tipped Egypt as a major contender for the crown, being the host nation but he is confident his side will give their best to challenge for the title as well. “We are ready, we know that a Cup of Africa is never easy,” Mahrez told Al Kass. “Host country (Egypt) is going to be supported by everyone, there will be a hundred million people behind them.”

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“This is the first time in a long time that we do not start as favourites in Afcon, and sometimes this position is beneficial for us to get rid of the pressure. We are going to try to make our way to the final, we have very good players, we have a good mix of young and experienced players, a good team and a good coach. Thanks to that, we will try to go far. To the Algerian fans, we will do our best to make you happy and come back with the Cup,” Mahrez said.

Algeria have been drawn in Group C alongside Sadio Mane’s Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania at the AFCON. They begin their campaign at this edition of the tournament against the Harambee Stars of Kenya on Sunday.