Mahrez stand-off gives Leicester boss Puel headache

London: Riyad Mahrez’s career is at a crossroads. With his dream move to Manchester City potentially in ruins, Leicester City boss Claude Puel faces a major challenge to get his star player back and performing. The Algerian winger was missing for the 1-1 draw against Swansea City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, having not trained since the Premier League leaders walked away from the negotiating table due to Leicester’s astronomical demands. Despite a second transfer request from the player in eight months, Leicester reportedly held out for a deal worth £80 million ($113 million, 91 million euros), with even City’s cash-rich Abu Dhabi owners unwilling to go beyond £60 million.
Mahrez, 26, is unhappy that Leicester were determined to secure such a huge profit on a player they bought for a reported £350,000 from French second-division side Le Havre in 2014 and who played a pivotal role in the club’s rise from the Championship to Premier League champions. He was crowned players’ player of the year during Leicester’s remarkable title-winning campaign in 2015-16, scoring 17 Premier League goals, and then signed a four-year deal to help lead their Champions League charge. Mahrez netted four times in the Champions League as Leicester again surpassed expectations as England’s last side standing before narrowly losing out 2-1 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals, proving he was no one-season wonder.
Kante departure
Adding to Mahrez’s ire is that other heroes of Leicester’s title-winning triumph — N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater — have been allowed to leave for Chelsea with far less resistance. And with City seemingly encouraged to make a move by injuries to Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus, there is no guarantee the runaway Premier League leaders will come calling again in the summer. “I am fiercely ambitious and feel that now is the time to move on to a new experience,” Mahrez said at the end of last season as he tried to force his way out. Instead, he has again led a Leicester revival this season under Puel following Craig Shakespeare’s sacking in October, scoring nine times in his past 20 outings.— AFP