Of all the big name strikers who took their form and pedigree from Europe’s top leagues into the Africa Cup of Nations, only one has truly lived up to his star billing: Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez.
Fallen by the wayside are Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Hakim Ziyech of Ajax who both struggled to inspire Egypt and Morocco respectively. Nicholas Pepe of Ivory Coast, who scored 22 goals for Lille last season, is yet to shine.
Riyad Mahrez, the Algeria captain has been in wonderful form, his touch and finish in the 3-0 win over Guinea in the last round indicative of a player brimming with confidence after helping Manchester City to the domestic treble in England.
According to the Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, the right wing hasn’t allowed that club success to go to his head.
“He is talented and plays for a big club but we mustn’t put him under too much pressure. Riyad has no desire to have the status of star,” said Belmadi after another Mahrez goal had taken Algeria to a 2-0 win in their opening game against Kenya.
It helps Mahrez that he is at the heart of a team whose parts are all functoning smoothly. They have won all four games so far, scoring nine goals and conceding none.