With reports linking Riyad Mahrez with a move to Barcelona or Manchester City in the past few days, Leicester City’s fans will be getting nervous about an exodus from the King Power Stadium.
Manager Claudio Ranieri has moved to calm any fears of that, claiming that star playmaker Riyad Mahrez will not be sold this summer.
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Mahrez, 25, has apparently got a $54 million price tag on his head and reports in Spain have been linking the Algerian winger with a move to Barca, while Man City is still interested in him.
Asked about Mahrez leaving this summer following Leicester’s 2-1 friendly win over Oxford United on Tuesday, Ranieri was unequivocal in his belief that Mahrez would stay: “Yes, he wants to stay.”
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Ranieri continued, seeming to suggest no more players would leave the King Power Stadium this summer as the Premier League champs prepare for their title defense and their first-ever season in the UEFA Champions League.
“I think everybody here is happy. It’s finished, the market has finished,” Ranieri said.
With N'Golo Kante sold to Chelsea for $40 million last weekend, the heartbeat of Leicester’s midfield has been ripped out. Jamie Vardy turned down a move to Arsenal to sign a bumper new contract at Leicester but now he, and especially Mahrez, must be looking around and thinking about their futures with the Foxes.
Mahrez is right to consider if his future lies elsewhere and the reigning PFA Player of the Year is surely at the peak of his powers just 18 months after joining Leicester for $800,000 from Le Havre in France’s second-tier.
Is it time for him, like Kante, to cash in on the incredible campaign Leicester had?
He must surely know that last season was a one-off and will be almost impossible to replicate. If Mahrez stays at Leicester and signs a new deal which is reportedly on the table, he will be rewarded handsomely for his 17 goals and 11 assists which helped the Foxes to win the PL last season.
However, if he moves on he could demand a higher salary elsewhere and compete in the UCL and for trophies season after season.
That is the tricky decision facing Mahrez and Leicester’s other stars this summer.