A closer look at Riyad Mahrez's situation at Leicester
As 2015-16 drew to a close, nearly every Leicester City player was hot property. Among those was Riyad Mahrez. A gentlemen agreement had to be reached to keep him with the Premier League champions. The Foxes' star man would stay for at least one more season, but he’d sign a four-and-half-year contract to up his asking price for when suitors arrived.
Very little was known about Mahrez prior to signing for Leicester. Credit must go to top scouts Ben Wrigglesworth and Steve Walsh who helped discover the Algerian.
Mahrez’s first task with the Foxes was helping them return to the summit of English football. He contributed his quota as Leicester won the 2013-14 Championship. The next challenge was ensuring his side retained Premier League status. That too was overcome after surviving a relegation dogfight.
During 2015-16, Mahrez showed his true capability. Leicester's remarkable season saw the world take note of a special talent; a midfielder who could tear opponents apart with his audacious skillset.
As is usually the case when a player begins to shine too bright in a perceived mid-table team, bigger clubs came circling. The Foxes realised they would have to fight dirty to keep Mahrez. The battle started when his wages were quadrupled to lure him into a long-term contract extension. Although there was a gentleman agreement which meant the former PFA Player of the Year could leave the King Power when his deal reached the second season, Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha decided to back out.
The events led to an impasse between player and club. Consequently, Mahrez is now well versed in submitting transfer requests. Within the past six months, he's put in two.
After Mahrez handed in his first transfer request at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, he was easily convinced to stay at the King Power. The Foxes had endured a woeful title defence, the entire team had underperformed and their players weren't viewed as good investments. Arsene Wenger sang Mahrez's praises, but the Gunners never tabled a substantial bid. The winger had no need to throw tantrums at that stage.
Fast forward to this season, Mahrez was proving he's no flash in the pan. Scoring and assisting aplenty, the big clubs were alerted once again. A nasty injury to Leroy Sané meant there was an urgent vacancy at Manchester City. With the Citizens 15 points clear atop the table, it was a great chance for the Algerian international to pick up his second Premier League winners' medal in three years. Srivaddhanaprabha blocked the move, however. Leicester's chief decision maker insisted Mahrez was worth £90 million. That figure was £30 million more than what was offered.
Man City pulling out of the deal hit Mahrez hard. Reports claimed it left him “depressed”. After three-and-a-half years giving his all to the Foxes, it felt like cruel treatment. Understandably, the club gave the want-away star some time off. Still, many in Leicester's camp are unsure of the winger's whereabouts. He is presumed to have gone AWOL.
As well as missing four training sessions, Mahrez was unavailable for two Premier League games against Everton and Swansea. He has not been seen near Belvoir Drive during that time.
Leicester's desperation to retain a prized asset is understandable. With Mahrez in the ranks, the Foxes stand a better chance of securing a Europa League place. Without him, they've collected just one point from a possible six. Their eighth position is now under threat.
Despite the immense boost Mahrez's presence offers, it was wrong for Leicester to go against his wish.
Riyad Mahrez deserves an opportunity at a top side. His current situation, however, favours neither himself, his club, or Manchester City.