Yacine Brahimi: The Arsenal-linked winger who idolises Zidane and plays like Mahrez

The Gunners are reportedly interested in the Algeria international, who's angling for a move away from Porto. Michael Yokhin introduces the talented, but occasionally troubled, winger...

You could call it the Riyad Mahrez effect. After the Leicester City star won the PFA Player of the Year award and led the Foxes to an incredible Premier League title last term, it's easy to understand why English clubs – namely Arsenal and Everton – are queuing up to sign Yacine Brahimi.

Like Mahrez, Brahimi's a Frenchman who grew up in the suburbs of Paris. Like Mahrez, he eventually chose to represent Algeria, the homeland of his parents, rather than wait for a chance with Les Bleus. Like Mahrez, he's an inventive and tricky winger with outrageous ball skills that shift fans to the edge of their seats.

Dig a little deeper, though, and it turns out there are considerable differences between the pair, too.

Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez and Brahimi are both tricky wingers and key players for Algeria

Young star

In 2009, he starred at the European Under-19 Championship, scoring the winner against Spain and leading France to the semi-finals, where they narrowly lost to England in extra time

Mahrez was never considered a potential star in his youth, with Leicester paying just £400,000 to sign him from French second-tier side Le Havre in January 2014; Brahimi, on the other hand, was seen as a tremendous prospect right from the very start of his time at the famous Clairefontaine academy. His self-esteem's always been high, a trait which has caused him a few problems along the way - last season, for example, Porto fans weren't happy at Brahimi's apparent desire to secure a big-money move away from the Portuguese giants.

Unlike Mahrez, Brahimi was an integral part of France's youth teams since the age of 16. In 2009, he starred at the European Under-19 Championship, scoring the winner against Spain and leading France to the semi-finals, where they narrowly lost to England in extra time. 

The ability's always been there: Brahimi's extremely difficult to dispossess when the ball's at his feet, while his ability to use both his left and right peg means he can be a nightmare to mark. While Zinedine Zidane was his idol, he also did his best to emulate Ronaldinho as he progressed into the professional ranks of the game.

Country calls

Understanding that a place in the France squad was going to be difficult to obtain, he accepted an offer from Algeria that had been on the table since 2010

After a successful loan spell with Clermont in 2009/10, the winger took Ligue 1 by storm at Rennes, scoring some exceptional goals and showcasing a range of brilliant tricks. Brahimi became complacent, though, and coach Frederic Antonetti gradually lost faith in him as his form dipped.

Brahimi ended up on the bench more often than not, a situation which led to him making some unpleasant remarks in the press. Clermont chose to sell him in 2012 but couldn't find a buyer; instead, Brahimi went on loan to Granada, who then signed him permanently in 2013.

The move prompted Brahimi to readjust his targets; understanding that a place in the France squad was going to be difficult to obtain, he accepted an offer from Algeria that had been on the table since 2010. It was a great decision, with the wide man starring in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as the North Africans booked their spot in Brazil.

Manager Vahid Halilhodzic was big on rotation and Brahimi only started two games in the finals, but he was superb when he did get the chance, scoring in the 4-2 defeat of South Korea and providing the assist for the crucial Islam Slimani strike against Russia that sent Algeria through to the last 16.

but de YACINE BRAHIMI VS Korea du sud world cup 2014 BRAZIL

Brahimi scores against South Korea

Impressive start

Brahimi took the No.8 shirt at the Estadio do Dragao, following in the footsteps of fellow Algerian Rabah Madjer, who scored a legendary backheeled winner in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich in 1987

His two years in La Liga were generally positive, too. Granada achieved their target of avoiding relegation, with Brahimi instrumental with his mazy runs down the flank - he even outdribbled Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2013/14 campaign. The highlight of his time at the club was the winner he scored against Barcelona, and it wasn't at all surprising when Porto prised him away after the World Cup.

Brahimi took the No.8 shirt at the Estadio do Dragao, following in the footsteps of fellow Algerian Rabah Madjer, who scored a legendary backheeled winner in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich in 1987. Within weeks he was an undisputed fans' favourite, with his tricks on the wing becoming known as "Brahimi moments."

He netted six times in his debut season in the Champions League in 2014/15, helping Porto reach the last eight, and was voted African Footballer of the Year by the BBC. Benfica pipped Porto to the championship crown in Portugal, though, and that's where the problems began.

Yacine Brahimi

Brahimi was excellent in 2014/15 but went backwards last season

Second-season syndrome

At this point considered a big star, Brahimi expected the club to sell him in the summer of 2015. When that didn't happen, his attitude changed, and his displays in 2015/16 were markedly different: Brahimi's ego came to the fore on the pitch, and Porto's supporters didn't take well to the alteration - particularly as they finished 15 points behind champions Benfica and exited the Champions League at the group stage.

With Nuno named as the club's new coach this summer, Porto opted to put Brahimi up for sale. "Decisions had to be taken according to what's the best for the team," the new boss explained. While it will be difficult to reverse the call, selling Brahimi isn't going to be easy, largely because some of his economic rights are held by a third party.

A move to the Premier League would present Brahimi with an excellent opportunity to get his career back on track. Potential suitors should be aware, however, that the winger, while clearly talented, is much less consistent than Riyad Mahrez.

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