London: Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez has described assumptions about his absence from the club as “completely untrue” after the Algerian returned to training on Friday for the first time since handing in a transfer request last month. Mahrez boarded the team coach en route to Saturday’s Premier League match at Manchester City despite manager Claude Puel saying on Thursday that the forward would definitely miss the game against the runaway leaders. British media reported that Mahrez was “depressed” after Leicester rejected Manchester City’s deadline day bid to sign him.
The 26-year-old, who has 2-1/2 years left on his £100,000 ($138,000) a week contract, missed two games and six training sessions in what British media described as a protest. “Over the past 10 days many people claiming to be my friend have spoken about me and things they know nothing about,” he said in a statement to the Leicester Mercury newspaper. “Off the back of that many people and journalists have made assumptions without properly checking the story, so I would like to clarify that all those so-called assumptions of why I was absent are completely untrue.”
He did not explain in the statement why he was absent but said that Leicester knew of his whereabouts and had knowledge of his thinking either directly or via his advisers. After Leicester manager Claude Puel appealed for his player “to get his head right and come back with us and work hard”, Mahrez arrived at the club’s training-ground on Friday morning.
“Riyad remains a greatly valued member of Claude Puel’s squad and is focused, together with his team-mates, on achieving further success with Leicester City,” the club said in a statement.
Mahrez trained with his team-mates, apparently with no problems despite media reports that some resented the way he had attempted to force a move away from Leicester.
The Midlands club have not said if Mahrez was granted permission to be away from the club — or whether he has been fined — but he appears to have been reintegrated in the way Puel hoped.
“Riyad is a magnificent player. He loves football, he loves his relationship with his team mates, he enjoys his football. I think he needs to come back, to play and touch the ball,” Puel had said on Thursday. “It is important he comes back.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, whose bid instigated the transfer request last month, said on Friday he “hopes” Mahrez faces City on Saturday.
“I hope he comes back soon to play football. We enjoy watching him,” he said.
There was no confirmation from Leicester whether Mahrez will be included in the 18-man matchday squad. — Reuters