Riyad Mahrez possesses the ‘hunger’ to repeat his PFA Player of the Year success and avoid enduring the fall from grace suffered by Eden Hazard at Chelsea according to Leicester City team-mate Danny Simpson.
Mahrez, who has scored 17 goals and provided 11 assists in 34 league games this season, became the first African player to win the PFA award on Sunday.
The 25-year-old edged out Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy to claim the award, which Hazard won last season following his performances in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign.
Hazard has since suffered an alarming loss of form, failing to score a league goal until hitting two in the 4-1 weekend victory over Bournemouth, but Leicester defender Simpson insists that Mahrez will not suffer a similar hangover.
“He is hungry,” Simpson said. “I don’t think he is the type of player who will perform like he has this season and think that is that.
“I think he will only want to do more next year and he will kick on. I am sure with the people around him that he will do that.”
Simpson’s partnership down the right flank with Mahrez has been a crucial element of Leicester’s success in moving to within five points of the Premier League title.
But the former Manchester United full-back insists that his only contribution to the double act has been offering constant encouragement to Mahrez.
“He believes in himself, he wants to score every game and create goals,” Simpson said. “Behind I just encourage him.
“Sometimes if it is not going for him I say don’t worry because you know with Riyad that he just takes a second and he will do something magic.
“I really hoped he would the award, but I said to him if I don’t get a mention for being behind him all season I wouldn’t be happy. But he has been class for us.”
Leicester’s 4-0 victory over Swansea at the weekend, which left Claudio Ranieri’s team needing just five points from three games to win the title, was achieved without leading scorer Vardy due to suspension.
But in Vardy’s absence, Leicester secured the biggest winning margin of the season and Simpson claims that the win proved their ability to cope without the England forward.
“Vards was missing but the lads which came in did well,” Simpson said. “It was a great performance and it was nice at the end of the game to be winning with a few goals rather than 1-0. It was a good performance.
“A lot of things get said (about being a one man team), but we just get on with it.
“We know how good Vards is for us, but that happened last week and we had to get on with it and do what the manager wanted us to do and we did that.
“Vards is a top class player. He is one of the best strikers in the league but the lads see the other boys every day and we know what we can do if they come in the team.
“We had to change our style a little bit today but we have worked on it this week and it has paid off.”
With just three games to go, the title is now within reach and Ranieri has urged his players to grasp their opportunity to make history.
“He keeps setting us goals,” Simpson said. “First it was safety, get 40 points, then it was keep going, can we get into the Europa League?
“Then can we get into the Champions League, then can we get into the Champions League group stages without playing a qualifier and then the next thing was go on then go for it now.
“It is nothing that we didn’t expect. He said it for the first time last week. I think he had been saying all season that with three or four games to go he will tell us where we are.
“He said he wants us to do and he believes in us and we believe in ourselves.”