Riyad Mahrez who was an integral part of Leicester City’s phenomenal title run in 2015-16, but the Algerian international made it clear after last season that he wants to play elsewhere. But with about a month left of the summer transfer window, Mahrez is still with the Foxes.
The 26-year-old French-born winger has been linked with Arsenal and Italian side AS Roma, but nothing has materialized yet for the African Footballer of the Year in 2016. After putting up great numbers in 2015-16 (17 goals and 11 assists in 36 league appearances), his production dropped off significantly last season as Leicester finished in 12th place. It was the worst finish for a reigning champion in Premier League history, and Mahrez ended the season with six goals and three assists in 33 league games, along with four goals and two assists in nine Champions League appearances.
Mahrez issued a statement at the end of last season that he wanted to leave the club and that his ambition was to play in the Champions League again.
“Out of the huge admiration and respect I hold for Leicester I wanted to be totally honest and transparent,” Mahrez wrote. “I have informed the club that I feel now is the time for me to move on. I had a good discussion with the chairman last summer and we agreed at that time that I would stay for another year in order to help the club as best as I could following the transition of winning the title and in the Champions League.
“I’ve had the four best seasons of my career at Leicester and have loved every moment. I feel immense pride to have been a part of what we have achieved during my time at the club, culminating in becoming Premier League champions. The relationship I share with the club and our amazing fans are something I will treasure forever and I truly hope they will understand and respect my decision.”
Roma, which finished in second place in Serie A last season, has reportedly had a £20 million offer rejected by the Foxes, but it’s likely that it will come back with another bid as Mahrez seems to be at the top of Roma’s wishlist after selling Mohamed Salah to Liverpool earlier in the summer for an initial fee of €42 million.
Roma also got a nice chunk of change for selling Antonio Rudiger to Premier League champions Chelsea for an initial fee of £29 million, so it has the finances to bring in a player like Mahrez. With AC Milan being extremely aggressive on the transfer market this summer, Roma will have to counter with some signings of its own if it is to have any hope of challenging for the title.
With a spot already secured in the Champions League group stage, Roma does tick off a lot of the boxes on Mahrez’s checklist. If he wants to stay in England, it seems like Arsenal is the most likely destination. The Gunners failed to reach the Champions League after finishing in fifth place last season, but if Arsene Wenger can convince him to come to the Emirates Stadium, then it would give Arsenal a much better shot of making it back into the most prestigious club cup tournament.
Arsenal has already shown that it’s eyeing a top-four spot this season with the signing of Alexandre Lacazette for a club-record fee of £52 million. Adding Mahrez to the mix and having a front line that includes Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Lacazette and Mahrez would be among the best in the league.