Leicester City’s unlikely run to the 2015-16 Premier League title was dubbed a “once-in-a-lifetime” accomplishment by most, the 5,000-to-1 odds-upsetting side not expected to retain the title this coming season.
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There were hopes, however, that the club could hold onto its stars for one more season — an UEFA Champions League season — and under the guidance of manager of the year Claudio Ranieri, solidify their place among England’s elite. With reports earlier on Friday, though, that Leicester and Chelsea had agreed a transfer fee for star midfielder N'Golo Kante, the dam had been compromised and the floodgates opened.
Now, according to the Guardian, Riyad Mahrez, named PFA Player of the Year during the Foxes’ title season, sees the writing on the wall and prefers to leave the club sooner rather than later — to get out on the highest of notes; to sign for a perennial Champions League side; to secure his footballing future from a position of peak power this summer:
Riyad Mahrez is set to reject Leicester City’s offer of a new contract after the Algeria forward decided he wants to pursue a new challenge away from the Premier League champions.
Mahrez still has three years left on his current contract, reportedly less than $50,000 per week. The club had hoped to retain the Algerian winger through a new long-term contract this summer, but that seems increasingly unlikely with Kante’s impending departure, as well as any other potential sales, leaving Leicester a significantly weakened side just 29 days before the new season kicks off.
One can’t help but imagine that striker Jamie Vardy, who turned down a big-money move to Arsenal earlier this summer, will be second-guessing his decision this evening. With Kante, and now perhaps Mahrez, headed for the King Power Stadium exit, they likely take any hopes of a top-four — let alone title — challenge with them.