It’s hard to forget how Leicester City won an unexpected Premier League title during the 2015-16 season, rising above immense adversity, and showing grit and determination against the well established sides. Their story definitely goes down as one of the finest and most inspiring in sports history, even if the subsequent downturn in fortunes for the Foxes.
While credit has to go to Claudio Ranieri for masterminding such brilliant feat, it’s impossible to underestimate Riyad Mahrez for his remarkable contribution to that famous success.
The Algerian was signed from French club Le Havre for a meagre £400,000 in January 2014 and helped Leicester gain top-flight promotion for the first time since 2004 before contributing an impressive 17 goals and 10 assists during the fairytale title-winning campaign of 2016.
Mahrez’s stellar displays reminded the footballing world of the importance of widemen with his breaks on the counter, dribbling and finishing making him a class apart. Predictably, his valuation rose astronomically as he won the 2016 PFA Player of the Year award and also the 2016 African Football of the Year award.
Mahrez wanted to leave the King Power Stadium at the end of the 2016-17 season and the likes of AS Monaco, Barcelona, AS Roma, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and, recently, Manchester City have all been linked with a move for his services.
The Foxes, however, have rebuffed all offers, and the relationship between player and club has deteriorated significantly as a consequence.
Close friend of Riyad Mahrez says Mahrez can't understand why Leicester won't let him join Man City: "He's given his all for Leicester. Joining City would have been a dream. Playing for Pep is something he's still desperate to do. He's very down." — Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) January 31, 2018
It's hard not to believe that the most recent botched move to Manchester City on deadline day must surely represent greed on the part of the club, despite Mahrez's encouraging form and professionalism during the first half of the campaign.
Rejecting a £60 million cash bid + a player, instead insisting on an outright £95 million fee is downright ridiculous. The current transfer market might be hyperinflated, but no one is going to pay £95 million for Mahrez unless they're absolutely desperate, which wasn't going to be the case for a City team running away with the Premier League title...even with Leroy Sane's injury.
This was a genuine chance for the 34-time capped Algerian international to leave and he was looking forward to it after handing in a transfer request. He also didn’t travel with the Leicester squad that lost 2-1 at Everton in midweek , staying behind only to realise his planned move to the blue half of Manchester wouldn’t materialise.
Now Mahrez has to motivate himself to play for Leicester again, and begin to reintegrate himself into a squad he was prepared to leave.
Credit has to given to the 26-year old for keeping his cool all through the frustration and still giving his best. Despite Leicester’s struggles this season, he has been one of the bright sparks with eight league goals and another seven assists.
In general, it doesn’t pay to keep players at the club if their mind is elsewhere, even if Leicester may believe their decision to keep Mahrez until now was justified.
Liverpool blocked Philippe Coutinho from joining Barcelona last summer but had to let him go in this winter transfer window for £142 million as the club returned for his services.
The result of keeping a player for too long could result in his value dropping considerably. Barcelona chased Cesc Fabregas for many years and Arsenal kept rejecting their offers, but when he finally did move in 2011, it was for just £35 million, which was considered low for a player his quality.
Poor Riyad Mahrez seems very upset. How was he to know signing that £100,000-a-week contract meant that Leicester had some kind of say in whether he was allowed to leave or not?— SportsJOE (@SportsJOE_UK) January 31, 2018
Players naturally want to progress and achieve on the bigger stage, and Mahrez, after serving Leicester for so long and with such distinction, ought to surely to have be given the opportunity to test himself elsewhere.
The game might be more about money today, but a £60 million fee for a player that was bought for a paltry £400,000 is massive gain and it's only greedy, surely, for Leicester to block the move.
Indeed, in future transfer windows, should the East Midlanders expect to get their hands on a higher fee for the Algerian, or may they regret not taking the excellent offer that they reportedly had on the table?