Manchester City manager Guardiola on Mahrez: Algerian a ‘player of the big stages’

Riyad Mahrez Pep Guardiola Manchester City 2019

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has described Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez as a big-game player due to his ability to handle pressure.

Guardiola signed Mahrez from Leicester City in July 2018 for £60m which made him the most expensive African player, and the two have enjoyed a good relationship and success, winning seven trophies over that period, including three Premier League titles in four years.

“I try to push him a lot,” Guardiola told Manchester City website about Mahrez.

“We struggle together because I know the quality he has and he’s a player I admire for the fact he handles the pressure. He likes to play in the biggest stages. It’s difficult to find that and players like him,” added the Spanish tactician.

“Not just me, the whole club has an incredibly high opinion of him and his quality, no doubt about that. He’s an exceptional player. He’s a player that many teams would like to have.”

Mahrez turned up in the big games for City last season as he scored against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in the Premier League as well as RB Leipzig, Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions League.

The Algeria forward possesses dynamism and cleverness seen in his control, technic and finishing; qualities Guardiola says he is lucky to have in his attack.

“He’s scored a lot of goals, penalties, assists and everything and part of that is the quality. He reads the game perfectly when he has to attack or give an extra pass,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.

The season of 2021-22 was the most productive in Mahrez’s four years in Manchester as he emerged as the club’s top scorer with 24 goals and nine assists in 47 games as City won the Premier League while reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup.

He was voted the club’s Player of the Month for December and February and despite being away from the Etihad Stadium for two weeks due to Algeria’s participation in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, he returned and continued from where he left.

Mahrez, who scored 48 goals in 179 games in five-and-a-half years at Leicester, has 63 strikes to his name in 189 matches for Guardiola’s side.