Is Riyad Mahrez on the Move From Leicester City?
The reigning Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, is set to leave Leicester City, according to Ed Aarons of The Guardian.
Mahrez has three years left on his current deal with the defending Premier League champions, but he easily outperformed his salary last season. On his current deal, Mahrez earns roughly $46,000 a week. Rumors have stated that Leicester are offering to double the current wage to keep the Algerian forward. However, Mahrez, after scoring 17 goals with 11 assists, seems to be weighing options as he's coveted by some of the European heavyweights.
Let's take a look at the clubs who have been most linked with Leicester City's star man.
Leicester City teammate Jamie Vardy already spurned Arsenal this summer and decided to stay with Leicester. In fact, many of Arsenal's big targets have landed elsewhere, which could make Arsenal pursue Mahrez even harder.
At the end of last week, Arsenal seemed like the odds-on favorite to land Mahrez, the man with a magical left foot. Manager Arsene Wenger has already signed Granit Xhaka and youngster Takuma Asano, but he has reportedly been given $75 million for transfers this summer. A Mahrez move to Arsenal could be contingent on Wenger's faith in Theo Walcott. Walcott and Olivier Giroud are currently the team's only healthy strikers. If Wenger has confidence in Walcott, Arsenal could move away from Mahrez.
Vardy may be able to offer advice to Mahrez should negotiations heat up.
The Blues got to see Mahrez's talents first hand last season as he scored one of the goals of the year in the Premier League in Leicester's home win over Chelsea.
@Ollie_Parsons1 Mahrez wonder goal vs Chelsea pic.twitter.com/IqLiMe2Kmb
— Ollie (@Ollie_Parsons1) March 13, 2016
Chelsea has already taken N'Golo Kante from Leicester to fit into Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 formation. Mahrez may be a nice fit, as well, as Chelsea looks to play football worthy of a Champions League spot once again. However, Juan Cuadrado is expected to return to Stamford Bridge this season after a loan stint with Juventus.
Conte impressed many with his coaching style at the helm of Italy during the 2016 European Championships. Conte was reportedly a big reason Kante wanted to play for the Blues, so other star players may have their sights on Chelsea, too.
Mahrez has been linked to Barcelona in the past. He could move to the top of their list as another target, Luciano Vietto, is set to join Sevilla. Vietto was guaranteed playing time in Sevilla, which is something Mahrez likely values, as well. That could be hard to come by at Barcelona as the Blaugrana boast an all-world attack force, but Barcelona is reportedly Mahrez's dream destination -- although it appears that admiration may be a one-way street.
At some point, almost every breakout star is linked with Barcelona and their endless money chest. However, no one from the club has confirmed discussions with Mahrez's representatives. It is likely that the team with perhaps the most prolific trio of scorers in European football will look elsewhere to bolster their ranks.
There is a chance the news that Mahrez has rejected a new contract offer from the Foxes is a leverage play. If his representation can prove discussions with other teams, then Leicester is likely to up their offer. Mahrez is in the best situation possible to argue for a better contract and will likely pull in more money than Vardy because of his talent on set pieces and ability to control the play.
Many do not believe that Leicester City can replicate their feats of last year, but they will be playing in the Champions League this season, which is an attractive selling point. Mahrez will get to play against the best teams in Europe. If he stays and puts in another season with over 20 points, then he will have his choice of suitors will only grow.
Mahrez's agent, Kamel Bengougam, stated in May there was a 50/50 chance his client would leave Leicester. There is no indication that the player's thoughts have changed drastically to sway the percentages in one way or another.
It would be no surprise if many teams are calling Leicester to inquire about Mahrez, but the team will only sell if the player ends all negotiations. The transfer fee would likely be greater than $40 million, which has become the norm in the Premier League. However, it would be no shock if Leicester is able to up their offer and keep Mahrez for one more season. It may be best for the forward, who can raise his stock even more as one of the Foxes' key cogs in the upcoming season.