The story of Riyad Mahrez's failed trial at Scottish side St Mirren is incredible, he escaped on a bike
| Last updated
Exactly nine years ago, one of football's greatest transfers took place when a 22-year-old Riyad Mahrez joined Leicester City for a bargain £450,000 from Ligue 2 side Le Havre.
The Algerian would go on to help the Foxes defy the odds and lift an unprecedented Premier League title in 2016.
Mahrez has since helped Pep Guardiola's side lift three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup, amongst other silverware. But his journey to the top has been far from straightforward.
Back in 2009, the Sarcelles-born winger was handed a two-month trial at Scottish side St Mirren before his professional career officially started with French fourth division side Quimper.
In an interview with L'Equipe, the Algerian international reminisced about that "very cold" trial in Scotland – and it's a story for the ages.
He began: "An agent, Jean Evina, told me he had trial for me in the Scottish First Division with St Mirren reserves. He paid for my ticket and I went with another guy from [Parisian suburb] Sarcelles, Dany Bekale.
"It went well. I played four friendlies and I scored seven goals - I killed them. And then they made me wait for two-and-a-half months."
Mahrez says he'd "had enough" of waiting around, so he borrowed a bike to escape.
"It drove me crazy, Scotland," he added. "It was cold. It was abuse. It was snowing and everything. I was so cold that one day I faked an injury to go to the locker room.
"It was physical and it was cold and we trained in the snow. I felt that I progressed. I wasn't allowed to go so I left in secret.
"Anyway... a few days later, my agent said: 'Riyad, I've sent you a ticket, you take the bus right away, get off at Glasgow Station and you get on the train to the airport, then you take the flight to Paris'.
"I did not speak English at all. I left my boots at the training ground. I borrowed a bike from a guy from the hotel, I took my football trainers, I made my bag and I left without telling anyone. Not even the lady at the hotel.
"I left via a staircase which avoided the reception."
Riyad Mahrez is preparing for the Champions League final with Manchester City.— Not The Old Firm (@NotThe_OldFirm) May 25, 2021
But when he was 17, Mahrez was brought to St Mirren for a trial by JLS' tour manager 🎤
St Mirren's ex-head of youth David Longwell tells NTOF how Mahrez ended up in Paisley - https://t.co/MvBKxGeqJ7 pic.twitter.com/OzWY2eQnte
Mahrez has also spoken about his time at St Mirren with Unscriptd years later. "I was quite happy to come back because Scotland was very difficult and very cold. I was young." he said. "I'd never been away from my family for that long."
Despite all the negatives surrounding his trial at St Mirren, the former Leicester winger admits there were some positives from the experience.
"In these two months in Scotland I really improved physically," he said. "I played with the English spirit as well - it's the same as British spirit.
"It was very intense physically and I think these two months helped me. When I came back to France I had better movement, better things in my qualities."