How do you replace a player like Lionel Messi? A question Barcelona have found themselves asking this season and one that Pep Guardiola has also possibly asked in years gone by.
Guardiola’s glittering stint as Barcelona manager was spearheaded by the Argentina international, though the pair’s time together came to an end when Pep made his Camp Nou exit in 2012.
With Messi now 34 and having joined Paris Saint-Germain last summer, it seems unlikely that Guardiola will ever get the chance to manage the diminutive magician again. But one Manchester City star has the ability to offer Pep flashbacks to his time with Messi.
Riyad Mahrez is looking as sharp this season as he has ever since moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2018. The Algeria international has never failed to notch double figures for the season in sky blue – a run he has emphatically continued this time around.
Mahrez has 15 goals in 26 appearances for City in 2021/22 – already his best tally since moving to City – and his brace at the weekend against Fulham ensured any threat of the Championship leaders launching a surprise comeback was soon put to bed.
in the MEN’s latest Facebook Live, City Is Ours team members Alex Brotherton and Dom Farrell took the chance to reflect on Mahrez’s weekend performance.
Alex started by lauding Mahrez’s character after his Algeria side were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations before Dom pointed out a specific trait of the winger’s that earned the praise of Pep Guardiola after the win over the Cottagers.
AB: “He’s worked his way back into the side and he’s leading in goal contributions.
“Another great performance from him [against Fulham] and it’s good to see that the disappointment with Algeria clearly hasn’t impacted him too much on the pitch. It’s great to have one of the key players still in great form as we approach the Premier League run-in and the Champions League knockout stages.
“Like [Ilkay] Gundogan, it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the summer [given his contract expires in 2023] or even before then, but great to see him adding two more goals to his tally.”
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DF: “I did notice in Guardiola’s post-match comments that he talked about Mahrez’s quality and specifically referenced his first touch. That was nice to hear because it is one of the most beautiful sights in football.
“Pep Guardiola is a guy who’s worked with Lionel Messi and his left foot for all those years, so if even he’s flagging up Riyad’s first touch then that shows what sort of company it belongs in.
“Those cross-field balls where the ball just seems to melt into his foot are special.”
Do you think Mahrez will stay at City beyond 2023? Follow City Is Ours team members Ross Jackson, Alex Brotherton and Dom Farrell on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.