The story is known but it is even more painful for French football after the double succeeded Tuesday night by Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian striker of Manchester City, against PSG (2-0) in the semi-final of the Champions League . Because Mahrez, also scorer in the first leg at the Parc, is the symbol of these young players trained in France but that Ligue 1 snubbed through blindness, lack of discernment or pretension. Trained in Sarcelles, Mahrez is an atypical attacker, fast but with a rather frail physique. Many recruiters observing him twitch on his muscles too light for the high level. The observation is always the same "he will be eaten by defenders stronger than him".
The motorway for the professional world blocked at the toll by these recruiters, Mahrez decides to take a side road that goes west.
Destination Brittany and Quimper, a CFA club (4th division).
Mahrez will learn the basics of his profession for a salary of 750 euros per month and an apartment he shares with a teammate, Mathias Pogba, Paul's brother.
“His trajectory was impossible to predict, impossible, a few years later Mickaël Pellen, his trainer in Quimper, would assure.
That no pro club was interested in his profile when he was a teenager, it seems normal to me.
He is so atypical.
A test with OM that did not have a follow-up
His Breton season was a success (27 games) and in 2010, PSG and OM noticed him to strengthen their reserve team. He refuses PSG. But OM is different. Riyad Mahrez has always loved the Marseille club. “They called me to give it a try. I'm going, I'm training with Franck Passi's CFA, everything is going well, so much so that José Anigo comes down and tells me that they want me to sign. In the end, Mahrez will not receive any offer from OM without understanding why. Ten years later, Franck Passi will lift the veil on this big failure.
"We set up a training match on purpose to see it, the reserve against the under 19s, three times thirty minutes," he said in the Team.
He makes a decent match, he is not above the others.
I ask to keep it for a week so that we can get an idea.
The other two coaches present are of the same opinion, as is the director of the center, Henri Stambouli.
We go back to the sports management, who replies:
No, make up your own mind right away.
If José had said
We keep him
, he would have stayed.
I had just spent four years in recruiting, we were studying a player over ten games, he would have had to explode on this match for us to keep him.
Judging on a single match is complicated.
We were wrong.
"I can't stand being taken for a gogo ..."
So Mahrez commits to Le Havre, first as a reserve team. A decent first season opened the doors to the first team where he ended up, two years later, by becoming an indisputable starter in L2. To the point that Leicester, then in the second division, welcomed him. Without being extraordinary, Mahrez blends into the workforce and actively participates in the rise to the Premier League.
But Mahrez continues to dream of OM. In December 2014, his agents contacted Franck Passi and then Vincent Labrune, the president, who answered them by email. A message that still continues today. “Do you really think that players from Leicester and USM Algiers can now have their place at OM in the project that is ours? In short, in order to save time, let me tell you that we are trying to be professional and qualitative in terms of recruitment and that consequently the probability that we take players in this way is equal to zero ”. The one who has since become president of the Professional Football League, thinks it good to add "I hope you will not take this message badly but I cannot stand being taken for a gogo ..."
The rest is known. Mahrez will explode across the Channel with Leicester where he will be crowned champion in 2016 and named best player of the championship before joining Manchester City two years later ...