For a player who had set the Premier League on fire last season, the transfer rumours were considerably lukewarm, to begin with. In an age where even an eye-catching performance against a top quality club leads the player to be linked with the club in the next transfer window, the teams linked with Riyad Mahrez were far and few between.
But all that seems to have changed after reports emerged that Mahrez had turned down contract talks and asked his agents to look for a move to one of Europe’s top clubs. While the transfer window has started to turn into a nightmare for the Leicester fans after a promising start, other clubs have taken notice of the events unfolding at the King Power Stadium. Mahrez has been heavily linked with a shock move to FC Barcelona but there hasn’t been any reaction from them as of yet.
Recent developments suggest Chelsea and Arsenal might be interested in the Algerian winger. Leicester, in a bid to stave off interested clubs, have put a valuation of £40m on their star player. The latest club to have supposedly joined the race is Manchester City. With Pep at the helm, Citizens expect to witness some dazzling attacking play and Mahrez’s similarity to Messi in his playing style and position has got people at the Etihad buzzing. Though these links have come out of the blue, on second thoughts they don’t seem too implausible.
Guardiola had earmarked Leroy Sane as his final attacking target this summer after the capture of Spanish attacker Nolito from Celta Vigo. Their public pursuit of the German attacking midfielder was well-documented and the valuation put by Schalke was believed to be north of £42m. Though City have been haggling for the price to be lowered, the uncertainty involving the transfer has got the tongues wagging. With reported interest from Bayern and Real, this transfer has proven to be more protracted than what the Sky Blues had anticipated.
With the reported availability of Riyad Mahrez, talks in the footballing circles imply that Pep might be looking at him as an alternative in case the Sane transfer fails to go through.
Mahrez gave glimpses of his potential in his first season at the club when the Foxes narrowly avoided the drop thereby making it possible for us to see the exploits of this fleet-footed winger in full flight. A smattering of nutmegs, an array of dribbles and disguised drops of the shoulder later we found Mahrez clocking up an astounding 17 goals and 11 assists and a further 67 chances for his teammates. Before the opposition defences could figure what had hit them, Mahrez was already halfway through Leicester’s title celebrations.
While Mahrez would be an upgrade on Jesus Navas, it would mean an end of the road at City for the Spanish international, which contradicts Pep’s claim of having the former Sevilla man in his plans.
While most Premier League clubs would be willing to accommodate a player of Mahrez’s calibre in their team, Ranieri is hopeful they have managed to convince the player dubbed as ‘Algerian Messi’ to remain at the club for at least one more season.
This article is written by Sourav Bhakat.