The story of Riyad Mahrez’s failed trial at Scottish side St Mirren is unbelievable, he escaped on a bike

The story of Riyad Mahrez’s failed trial at Scottish side St Mirren is unbelievable, he escaped on a bike

The story of Riyad Mahrez’s failed trial at Scottish side St Mirren is unbelievable, he escaped on a bike

Exactly nine years ago, one of football’s biggest transfers took place when a 22-year-old Riyad Mahrez joined Leicester City in a bargain £450,000 from League Two side Le Havre.

The Algerian would go on to help the Foxes defy odds and win an unprecedented Premier League title in 2016.

Then, after a memorable four-year stint at the King Power, Leicester would turn a big profit on the tricky winger when Manchester City made a club-record £60million.

Mahrez has since helped Pep Guardiola’s side win three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup, among other silverware. But his journey to the top was far from straightforward.

In 2009, the Sarcelles-born winger was given a two-month trial at Scottish side St Mirren before his professional career officially began with French fourth division side Quimper,

In an interview with L’Equipe, the Algeria international recalled that ‘very cold’ trial in Scotland – and it’s a story for the ages.

He began: “An agent, Jean Evina, told me he had a trial for me in the Scottish Premier League with St Mirren reserves. He paid for my ticket and I went with another guy from [Parisian suburb] Sarcelles, Dany Békalé.

“It went well. I played four friendlies and scored seven goals – I killed them. And then they made me wait two and a half months.”

Mahrez says he was “fed up” with waiting, so he borrowed a bike to get away.

“It drove me crazy, Scotland,” he added. “It was cold. It was abuse. It was snowing and everything. I was so cold that one day I faked an injury to go to the locker room.

“It was physical and it was cold and we trained in the snow. I felt I was making progress. I wasn’t allowed to go so I went on the sly.

“Anyway…a few days later my agent said to me, ‘Riyadh, I sent you a ticket, you get on the bus straight away, you get off at Glasgow station and you get on the train for the airport, then you take the flight to Paris”.

“I didn’t speak English at all. I left my shoes at the training ground. I borrowed a bike from a guy at the hotel, took my football sneakers, packed my bag and I left without telling anyone, not even the lady at the hotel.

“I exited by a staircase that avoided the reception.”

Mahrez also spoke about his time in St Mirren with Unscripted years later. “I was quite happy to come back because Scotland was very difficult and very cold. I was young.” he said. “I had never been away from my family for so long.”

Despite all the negatives surrounding his trial at St Mirren, the former Leicester winger admits there were positives to the experience.

“During these two months in Scotland, I have really improved physically,” he said. “I also played with the English spirit – it’s the same as the British spirit.

“It was very intense physically and I think those two months helped me. When I came back to France, I had better movements, better things in my qualities.”

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