Leicester can ruin Riyad Mahrez’s career; Why shouldn’t he strike?
Riyad Mahrez has maintained his self-imposed exile from Leicester City, making himself difficult to find, continuing to stay away from training as his teammates prepare for Saturday’s trip to Manchester City. The Algerian international has been heavily criticised for refusing to train. He is protesting the club reneging on an alleged verbal agreement made during his last contract extension. Apparently, Leicester had agreed not to stand in the way if a bigger club came for him. Now, he is kept at the King Power Stadium against his will for another transfer window.
If Leicester can deceitfully hinder, possibly ruin, his career by denying him a beneficial transfer, why should the player have to accept the decision lying down?
Not the first time
Mahrez could have joined Arsenal in 2016, AS Roma in 2017, and City in 2018. Since Leicester won the Premier League title in 2016, the gifted forward has had three opportunities to leave Leicester City for a bigger European club. The Foxes have boxed him in each time.
The 26-year-old stated Arsenal came in for him two summers ago but he rebuffed the opportunity to avoid difficulties with Leicester. Twelve months later, however, Mahrez had a change of heart. After he handed in a transfer request at the end of the 2016/17 season, Leicester still turned down a bid from AS Roma, forcing him to stay when he clearly wanted to leave. January's refusal put the final nail in the coffin. Leicester rejected four bids from Manchester City at the end of the month, believed to be in excess of £60 million.
Leicester ambitions trump any player's
After again being denied a move again, Mahrez had only one way to make his disappointment known. He went on strike.
Leicester has put the club before his happiness, forcing their most talented individual to remain mid-table, rather than play for a Champions League-chasing outfit. Even if it seems fair to some, given he is under contract, it is proving very unproductive.
At 26, Mahrez is desperate to make his move before he is too old for clubs to take the gamble. He’s correct to question why £60 million wasn’t enough for Leicester to accept. The market suggests that may even be overpaying. Given the final offer included a player in addition to the money, Leicester cannot even claim it would be left shorthanded.
Mahrez is only the 16th top scorer and seventh-best creator in the Premier League this season. Since playing in the top flight with the Foxes, Mahrez has only hit double figures for goals and assists once. That was 2015/16’s title season. That's hardly world-class. So why is Leicester holding out for a world-class price?
They are mistreating the forward with their sky-high valuation. Is it really worth risking his unhappiness by refusing a move? Mahrez will have to wait another four months before he can push for a move. There’s a chance he’ll be made to apologise and return. Yet, how much trust could Claude Puel place in him should that happen?
It isn't in Mahrez's best interest to stop playing football. He will lose his competitive edge. Yet, how else can he fight against Leicester? It’s never a nice situation for a player to refuse to train, but it's also not nice for a club to turn down such a lucrative bid for a player it had agreed to sell for the right price.