Former Algeria head coach Vahid Halilhodzic has revealed he was accused of taking money when he picked Riyad Mahrez in his squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Mahrez has been a revelation in the Premier League this season, scoring 14 goals and setting up another 10, but he was a relative unknown when called up for his country in 2014.
Halilhodzic, who is now leading the Japanese national team, recalled to Goal.com the criticism he took at the time:
I first heard Riyad's name when ex-coach Christophe Delmotte told me there was an interesting Algerian lad at Le Havre. He didn't play much there but he caught my attention. You could see he was one hell of a technician — he controls the ball brilliantly.
He moved to Leicester soon after and started playing off the bench. I saw quality. He was technically superior and a sophisticated dribbler, but he had no power. Still, I saw his potential and invited him to the World Cup. I cannot describe what I experience from the Algerian media after that. There was no common sense in their criticism – some even claimed I took money from Riyad to take him to the World Cup.
Mahrez joined Leicester City in January 2014 and has since made a huge impact, playing an integral role in the Foxes' stunning climb to the top of the Premier League.
"Of course, he was not at the level he is today, but it doesn't surprise me how good he is in the Premier League," continued Halilhodzic. "He's the kind of player that makes a difference. A modern, fantastic player. I knew I didn't make a mistake in calling him up."