Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez spoke about the Champions League semi-final this weekend, discussing his developing role in Pep Guardiola’s team, becoming a prominent figure in Al Ittihad, and staying in touch with his loyal fans in the Arab world.
The 30-year-old Algerian has played a pivotal role in a number of big matches this season – including a double in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Paris Saint-Germain, adding to the winner he scored in Paris.
He is now heading to Portugal as the City side are looking to write their name in the history books as they strive for their first Champions League victory when they play Chelsea in Porto.
Before the match, he said this….
Q: How did you feel your role in the team evolved this season?
A: I think the longer you work with a team, the easier it will be to settle into the gameplay, to see what is expected of you and how your teammates play as well. This is really important. This season is my third year here and I know the coach, know the players and know the system better than ever. After that, it’s just about working hard and performing and I hope I’ve done it this season.
Q: There have been some big performances in Europe, so how far are you looking for the Final?
A: It’s a big moment for everyone on the team, and it’s something you dreamed of when you were a kid. Obviously we’ve been wanting to get to that stage for a long time and now we’re here, wanting to make sure that the trophy is raised. We played really strong teams to get here and those matches were not easy. There were moments in front of Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain when people would look at us and say maybe they wouldn’t be able to. But we came together as a group and now we are playing perhaps the biggest matches of our football career. It is a dream for any player to play at this level and we look forward to going out and doing what we can to win.
Q: How was Ramadan this year and how did you celebrate Eid?
A: Ramadan is clearly an important time for me like a lot of people. The feast is also incredibly special. They both have been good this year and I hope it will be the same for everyone.
Q: You are now a seasoned player, how do you help the younger players on the team?
A: It’s strange as a soccer player. You went through the system as a little kid, then broke into the team, you were the youngster on the team, and then suddenly you became one of the most experienced players! But I enjoy it. There is a strong group of players here and the only difference I assume is what we all did on our way to join Manchester City. We all have experiences that we can share, difficult moments that we find a way to and try to do so through the team. It is clear that it is important to help young people as much as we can because they have so much talent and they just need some advice here and there to help them in their own paths.
Q: How do you stay in touch with your fans in the Middle East?
A: I hope my social media keeps all my fans feeling connected to what I do here in England. I definitely feel the love from the guys who support me there. These players push you to be better and make you proud to play at the highest level because every football fan dreams about what we do and that is very special. I hope they feel part of my journey here and I am very grateful for all of their support.
Q: Millions of them will watch the Final – Can you send them a thank you note beforehand?
A: I just want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who supports the club. It was an odd season where we couldn’t see the fans and bring them with us in the matches, but we know everyone watches us and cheers us from home. In tough moments off the field this idea can really push you to make it happen so everyone is very important to have that success. We have already won the League Cup and Premier League for our fans and the final will be special so everyone should enjoy it and hopefully we can win the title for everyone who loves City.
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