Man City’s first-ever January transfer window flop is playing key role in Riyad Mahrez’s career – Alex Brotherton

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The general perception is that signing footballers in the January transfer window is risky business, and Manchester City fans know that better than most.

Although in recent times the likes of Aymeric Laporte and Gabriel Jesus have shown that mid-season arrivals can be successful, City have signed plenty of duds over the years.

Benjani, Felipe Caicedo, Wilfried Bony – the list goes on. All of these players scored the odd goal for the Blues before disappearing into obscurity, rarely to be heard of ever again. But one January signing is still playing a key role in the club’s quest for success.

Djamel Belmadi was City’s first-ever January transfer window recruit, signing on loan from Marseille at the beginning of 2003.

The Algerian midfielder, like many of City’s January signings, failed to live up to expectations. After impressing on his full debut in a 4-1 win against Fulham, he would only earn one further start during his time in Manchester.

He featured in City’s final game at Maine Road, earning him a place in club history, but he returned to his parent club at the end of the season after manager Kevin Keegan decided against making the move permanent.

Surely that was the end of that, right? Well, not exactly.

Fast forward to 2018 and Belmadi was appointed as Algeria’s head coach, a role that has seen him work closely with City’s Riyad Mahrez.

Djamel Belmadi made eight appearances for City in 2002/03

Given that Mahrez’s arrival at City was announced less than a month prior to Belmadi being appointed as Algerian boss, it’s fair to assume that the coach has had a decent amount of influence over the 30-year-old during a huge period in his career.

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Mahrez won the Premier League with Leicester in 2016 of course, but since moving to City he has enjoyed the most trophy-laden spell of his career.

He has won two Premier League titles, three Carabao Cups and one FA Cup with City. Despite struggling to fully find his feet for a couple of years, he played an integral role in City reaching a first-ever Champions League final last year and was included on the shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d’Or.

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In the green of Algeria he has flourished under Belmadi. In 2019 he led his nation to a second-ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph, scoring a 95th-minute winner in the semi-final before captaining the side to a 1-0 defeat of Senegal in the final.

At times the relationship has appeared strained between the two, but both have always publicly come to each other’s defence.

Early last year Mahrez clarified comments made by Belmadi, saying a mistranslation had given the impression that the coach had said Mahrez was unhappy at City.

After Algeria crashed out of the AFCON last week having failed to win any of their three group matches, Belmadi defended his star winger when he came under fire for sub-par performances.

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“Don’t go and point the finger at players who have given you so much happiness,” Belmadi said. “When things are not going well you start to point the finger at him or me.”

Belmadi has overseen a huge period of Mahrez’s career and the two are understandably close.

He’s effectively had more influence upon City’s fortunes as a coach from far than he ever did during his brief stint in sky blue. His contributions as a player are understandably forgotten, but City fans should recognize what Belmadi has done for one of the best attackers to ever play for the club.

Do you remember Belmadi’s time as a City player? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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