As one of the busiest January transfer windows in recent times begins to come to an end, Leicester City’s star winger Riyad Mahrez’s future remains uncertain. The Algerian has been heavily linked with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal throughout the course of the month.
Could Riyad Mahrez be the perfect alternative to Alexis Sanchez for Manchester City?
Mahrez first displayed his desire to leave the Foxes for a Champions League club back in the summer and even left the Algerian national team’s training camp on deadline day in hopes of a last-minute transfer only to turn up for Leicester’s opener of the Premier League season at the Emirates. By contrast, Manchester City’s January transfer window has been heavily centred around the seemingly to be never-ending Alexis Sanchez transfer saga, which concluded earlier this week as the Chilean opted for a transfer to Manchester United. Though the “Cityzens” sit atop the Premier League table with a comfortable 12-point lead, manager Pep Guardiola has expressed his desire to bring in a player who “cannot only play there (no.9 striking role).” Whether it’s during this window or the summer, here are some talking points on how Riyad Mahrez could potentially be the solution to City’s winger problem:
Has he regained his 2015/2016 form?
2 years ago Leicester City pulled off one of the grandest sporting miracles of all time by lifting the Premier League trophy in May of that season. Football fans all over the world were dazzled and inspired throughout that season as N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, and Riyad Mahrez played crucial roles in driving Leicester to the title, with Mahrez picking up the coveted PFA Player of the Year award. What followed in the 2016/2017 season was underwhelming, as the Foxes couldn’t find any way to replicate their sensational form. With Kante having transferred to Chelsea, Vardy and Mahrez endured difficult campaigns and quickly faded away from the spotlight. The 2017/2018 season has taken a surprising upturn for the Foxes with the appointment of Claude Puel. Since Puel joined, Mahrez has begun to look like the player of 2 years ago, racking up 8 Premier League goals and 7 assists so far. After seeing Guardiola’s impact on various City players, including the likes of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne, Mahrez must himself be thinking, how much better could he get were he to leave?
How much would he be valued in the current market?
Earlier this month, Claude Puel claimed Mahrez could be “worth over £100 million”. Contrary to this, various reports suggest Leicester would be willing to sell the winger for around £50 to £60 million pounds. In actuality, Leicester have yet to receive a formal bid for the player, therefore his value is still open to debate. One aspect worth noting would be that Mahrez currently has 2 and a half years left on his Leicester contract. Therefore, if a new deal is not signed in the near future, Leicester could allow Mahrez to leave within the next two transfer windows to avoid a running down of his contract. While the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Paulo Dybala seem to be more ideal alternatives to Sanchez, City might not be willing to match the demanded fees or personal demands for these players, which needless to say, would both be massive.
Where would Mahrez fit in at City?
One of the more debated points of discussion among City fans concerning Alexis Sanchez was whether the Chilean would be granted a starting position at the Etihad considering the form of Sterling and Sane being crucial to City’s campaign thus far. In the end, it could have been another deciding factor in Sanchez’s decision to sign for their cross-town rivals. Mahrez, on the other hand, would likely take much less convincing to join City. Whereas Sterling and Sane have built a reputation at City as traditional “no. 7” wingers, Mahrez’s ability to use both of his feet (many City fans will remember THAT goal at the Etihad in 2016) opens up the possibilities of playing on either flank for City. This could also allow Guardiola to focus on using Bernardo Silva in the current David Silva role. Mahrez has also been alternated this season under Puel between his natural right-wing position and playing the “no. 10” role. Experience in this role would allow Mahrez to even fill De Bruyne and Silva’s roles if needed. Guardiola has also recently revealed that he is open to using Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling as makeshift strikers. Given that Mahrez is a relatively similar player to Bernardo Silva all around, and has also featured in the striker role for Leicester this season, most recently against Chelsea, Guardiola may have a player capable of playing in 5 different positions in his current system.
Would it be ideal to target a winger now?
According to reports, City are on the verge of signing French defender Aymeric Laporte. One of the main driving forces to the deal is that Laporte is eligible to play for City in the Champions League. Mahrez is the same, as he is also eligible to play in the Champions League should he move to a new club this month. Having avoided drawing the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the last 16, would it be ideal for City to complete their squad now and focus on maximizing their chances of lifting Champions League trophy this season?
To conclude, it seems as if none of the “big 6” in England have made any real efforts to sign Mahrez. Given the Algerian’s technical abilities alongside both his personal and squad achievements, is there a reason they haven’t moved for him? Could he be the answer for Manchester City’s decision to pull out of the Alexis Sanchez deal? Only time will tell, and City fans could find out who the alternative is soon as the transfer window enters its final days.