After a dramatic January transfer window when Leicester City stood firm in their refusal to sell Riyad Mahrez, their resolve has finally been broken. The winger is set to complete a £60 million move to Manchester City this week, according to a report by Sky Sports.
It’s been quite a remarkable story for a player who only five years ago plied his trade in Ligue 2 in France with Le Havre. Leicester City, then a Championship club, signed Mahrez for an undisclosed fee believed to be less than £1 million. Now, he is on the verge of joining the reigning Premier League champions for more than 60 times that amount.
Mahrez has made 179 appearances for Leicester in all competitions, scoring 48 goals. The highlight of his career at the King Power Stadium, of course, was that incredible 2015/16 campaign, when Leicester scripted one of the greatest stories in the history of sport by winning the Premier League. The Algerian was the star man, winning the PFA Player of the Year award for his consistently brilliant showing. He scored 17 goals and formed a lethal partnership with striker Jamie Vardy, as Claudio Ranieri found a magic formula, which ticked for the entire season.
There is an important question to be asked though, from the player’s point of view. Is this big-money really good for his career? There is no doubt that it is every footballer’s dream to be competing for trophies week-in, week-out, which Man City are certainly going to be doing. However, they already have a well-established team from last season, and Mahrez is not going to find it easy to displace Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling on the wings. Bernardo Silva had to be content with a place on the bench for large periods last season, and it is going to be difficult for Pep Guardiola to keep everyone happy with sufficient game time. There is no doubt that Mahrez has the quality to make a huge difference to the squad, but he will have to be very patient and also need a bit of luck to start playing from the start on a regular basis.
Manchester City and Chelsea are also looking for wingers, and even though it is very premature to say this, a move to either of those clubs could have been turned to be more fruitful for Mahrez. With United, he would still be playing in the Champions League and challenging for other honours as well.
For City though, this is an incredible step towards complete domination of English football in the near future. They ran away with the title last season, becoming the first team in the history of the Premier League to win over 100 points. Along with Mahrez, they are also getting close to finalizing a deal for Napoli midfielder Jorginho. They could start the 2018/19 season with two world-class players in every position. For Guardiola, success in the Champions League will be of utmost importance. Despite the monumental spending over the past couple of years since the Spaniard’s arrival in 2016, City haven’t gone past the quarter-finals.
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