Moaning Mahrez may never leave Leicester if he doesn't stop sulking

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The Algeria international has not returned to training after his failed move to Manchester City, but he is now only damaging his own profile

Given the way Manchester City are playing this season, any footballer would – whether they want to admit it or not – be keen to represent Pep Guardiola’s side. As such, few could criticise Riyad Mahrez for skipping training on transfer deadline day when news of the Premier League leaders’ interest filtered through.

One week on, though, and with no agreement having been reached between the champions-elect and Leicester City for the Algeria international, he has yet to resurface. The Foxes insist they have no idea when he will return to the fold but, with each day that passes without him showing up, Mahrez’s profile in world football continues to diminish.

For much of the season, Mahrez has been praised for knuckling down and returning to the form that helped Leicester pull off their miraculous title win in 2016 despite having failed to secure a summer move. Roma were among those keen on the 26-year-old, while the player himself went AWOL for the first time as he spent the final hours of the summer window waiting for someone – anyone – to lodge a late bid.

His return of eight goals and eight assists in 24 Premier League appearances this season is likely what attracted Guardiola to the wideman, particularly after the Catalan coach had failed to sign Alexis Sanchez and saw Leroy Sane pick up an ankle injury on the final weekend of the window.

The German’s fitness was likely the reason why City accelerated their interest in Mahrez rather than waiting for the summer to bolster their forward line but, given the window was still open, it would be naïve for fans to blame the buying club for unsettling a player when the parameters for mid-season transfers are set as such.

It is now seven days since deadline day, a period in which Leicester have twice dropped points as they aim to potentially secure Europa League football.

Even if Mahrez returns ahead of Saturday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium, he is unlikely to be selected for a match that would, in theory, have allowed him to show exactly why Guardiola and the City hierarchy should have been willing to part with more than the £65 million they reportedly offered.

Instead, Mahrez is sullying his legacy at Leicester, as well as doing damage to any future chances of making the step up to a top-table European side.

Putting aside claims that Philippe Coutinho exaggerated a back injury while last summer's transfer window was open, the way in which the Brazilian applied himself in the opening months of the campaign undoubtedly helped him eventually earn his dream move to Barcelona last month, while Liverpool can be grateful his efforts ensured they received as much money as possible in return.

Mahrez, though, has now positioned himself as a troublemaker whom the world’s biggest clubs will likely think twice about acquiring.

In breaching his contract so blatantly, he has done his personal brand real damage, and despite super-agent Kia Joorabchian having recently taken over as the Algerian’s representative, his actions suggest he is still being advised by the inexperienced Kamel Bengougam.

Riyad Mahrez quote GFX

As a popular member of the squad, Mahrez will likely be welcomed back with open arms by his team-mates when he eventually returns to work, despite some understandable disappointment at his actions.

Claude Puel has worked wonders with difficult characters such as Hatem Ben Arfa before, and the former Southampton boss would likely pride himself on integrating yet another disgruntled speedster back into the fold.

"I expect nothing. The most important thing is not to think about one player, but to think about my team and my squad,” Puel said after Saturday’s draw with Swansea.

As is typical of his style, he is putting those available to him first, but there is no doubt that he will be a key figure in bringing Mahrez back from the brink when he finally comes to his senses.

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How far away that moment is remains a mystery, but the longer Mahrez’s sulking lasts the less chance he has of eventually getting the move he obviously craves so much.

He has a right to be upset, and those such as Chris Sutton who have dubbed him a "big baby" are being rather one-eyed in their criticism.

What has happened has happened, however. Absolutely no one is winning from him continuing to stay away.

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