Leicester’s Mahrez must emulate Messi and Ronaldo – Ranieri

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has challenged winger Riyad Mahrez to follow the example of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by showing a desire to repeat the performances that earned him accolades in 2016.

Mahrez, who returns to the team against West Ham on Saturday after being dropped to the bench for the Boxing Day home defeat to Everton, has struggled to reproduce the form that saw him crowned the PFA Player of the Year and African Player of the Year.

The 25-year-old is due to link up with Algeria’s squad for the African Nations Cup next week and could be away until mid-February if they reach the final.

But with Mahrez netting just seven times so far this season after scoring 17 last time, Ranieri said he should look to Messi and Ronaldo, who continued to raise their games after winning awards.
“For the first time in 2016, Riyad won everything,” Ranieri said. “But he is an intelligent player and knows that Messi and Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or and then wanted to win again and win again.

“They forgot their awards and wanted to win again.

“Riyad won the African Ballon d’Or, now he wants to improve. He has another responsibility — it is important that he wants to win another Ballon D’Or Africa — he must show other players.”

The Italian confirmed that Mahrez would be restored to the starting XI against West Ham and added: “The fantasy players sometimes need a little rest to recharge the batteries.

“Against Stoke we worked for one hour against 11 men [when down to 10 after Jamie Vardy’s dismissal] and Riyad worked so hard,” he said.

“I watched him all week and he was a little tired and not so smart, so I said needs a little rest.
“Now I say he can play. Of course I need more form all the important players and for us, Riyad is one of important players.”