Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez was named the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year (POTY) yesterday (April 24), making him the first African to receive the award. The PFA award, chosen by players in the English Premier League, is one of the most prestigious honors an individual can receive in British soccer.
Mahrez, a forward for his club, Leicester City, beat teammates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante as well as Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and West Ham’s Dimitri Payet for the award. Mahrez’s win was scarcely debatable—he is the only player in the Premier League to have reached double figures in goals and assists this season. In total, Mahrez has been involved in 28 goals for Leicester City.
Mahrez’s POTY win defies the economics of modern day soccer. Since the start of the Premier League in 1993, Mahrez, at £400,000, has cost the least in transfer fees paid for the recipient of the PFA POTY award. In fact, Mahrez is arguably the least expensive player in history to win the award.
Chelsea’s John Terry (2005), Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard (2006) and Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs (2009) all won the award and cost their clubs nothing in transfer fees but all three were homegrown and came through the clubs’ academies. Paul McGrath, the winner of the PFA POTY award in 1993 also cost £400,000 when he moved to Aston Villa in 1989 but adjusted for transfer fee inflation in soccer, he would have cost more than Mahrez does today.
For Leicester City, Mahrez’s award is also a testament to their eye for value at a time when the most expensive player costs 200 times more than Mahrez. With no player earning more than £100,000, Leicester City has defied logic and economics by building a team out of cheap, experienced players. Sitting on top of the English Premier League table, the club has performed better than other established teams despite having a far smaller annual wage bill.