Prized possession: Mahrez is the first African winner of the award.
Riyad Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year award last night and then dedicated the prize to all his Leicester team-mates.
Mahrez was presented with the prestigious trophy at the Grosvenor Hotel in London after contributing 17 goals and 11 assists to the Foxes’ fairytale campaign. Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli won the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Mahrez was flown down by helicopter to the ceremony from the King Power Stadium, where Claudio Ranieri’s side had earlier thrashed Swansea 4-0 to move eight points clear at the top of the table.
The Algerian held off competition from Dimitri Payet, Harry Kane, Mesut Ozil and fellow Leicester men Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante to win the award, but dedicated the success to his team-mates.
“All the credit is for them, seriously,” Mahrez said. “And for my manager and the staff. Without them I wouldn’t receive this award and I wouldn’t score. It’s the team spirit, and I want to dedicate it to them.
“I’m very grateful to receive this award, it’s a pleasure. It’s extra special because if the players vote for me it’s because they’ve seen I’ve been great this year, so I’m happy.
“But it’s more team things. Without my team-mates I wouldn’t get this award.”
Mahrez has been instrumental in his team’s remarkable rise and he now joins a glittering list of former winners that includes Kenny Dalglish, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
With three games left, Leicester stand on the brink of arguably the greatest shock in English football history.
“The secret has been team spirit,” Mahrez added. “We work so hard for each other. We are like brothers, it’s everywhere on the pitch. That’s our strength.”
Alli was named the Young Player of the Year after registering 10 goals and 12 assists in his debut campaign in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old beat team-mate Kane to the prize, as well as Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland, Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Everton duo Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.
Alli couldn’t collect the award in person, with Spurs hosting West Brom on Monday night, but Ossie Ardiles picked it up on his behalf and the youngster sent a video message. Alli said: “Thank you for to everyone who voted for me.
“I feel honoured to win such a prestigious award and thank you to my friends, family and all the staff at Tottenham.”
Petr Cech and the crossbar denied Sunderland a priceless Barclays Premier League victory, as Arsenal failed to reclaim third place from Manchester City.
The Gunners needed to win at the Stadium of Light to edge ahead of City once again, but had to make do with a point from a 0-0 draw which lifted the Black Cats out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
However, they could have left Wearside empty-handed as Patrick van Aanholt hit the woodwork with a first-half free-kick and Cech made a series of important saves after the break to keep Sam Allardyce's men at bay in front of a crowd of 45,420.
In Sunday's other Premier League match, Leonardo Ulloa deputised seamlessly for Jamie Vardy in a 4-0 victory over Swansea City on Sunday that took Leicester City to within five points of the Premier League title.
Vardy's suspension, after he was shown a second yellow card for diving against West Ham United, robbed Leicester of their top scorer, but Argentine striker Ulloa proved a capable deputy by scoring twice as Claudio Ranieri's men moved eight points clear of Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham have a game in hand, at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday, but Leicester, for whom Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton also found the net, are now almost within touching distance of a title success the like of which world football has rarely seen.