Leicester City lifted the Premier League title on Saturday after a convincing 3-1 win over Everton. The victory capped a fairytale season which saw The Foxes win their first ever league title and a passionate atmosphere greeted them at the King Power Stadium before a rousing performance from Andrea Bocelli lifted the roof.
The celebrations in Leicester will no doubt go on right through the summer but the main concern will be keeping hold of their star players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante. According to reports today in the Daily Star, Mahrez is set to turn down offers of up to £40million to remain at Leicester to defend their title and play in next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal, Barcelona and Pars Saint-Germain have all expressed interest in Mahrez but it seems like the 25-year old will remain at the club. Mahrez joined Leicester in 2013 from Le Havre and has quickly established into one of the Premier League’s best players and was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the 2015/16 season. If Mahrez were to move on then he may struggle to get into the starting eleven on a regular basis with regular Champions League clubs having a huge squad of talented players to choose from.
Mahrez has the ability to get into any team but how has the Algerian international compared to the players at the clubs mentioned above this season?
Mahrez has shone for Leicester this season scoring 18 goals in 38 appearances from the right side of midfield. He has also chipped in with 11 assists, an impressive figure but when you compare that to Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil who has currently got 18 he falls short.
Arsenal midfielder Ozil is the only one who comes close to Mahrez, even Alexis Sanchez has struggled to hit the heights of last season weighing in with only 13 goals and four assists himself. If Arsenal can sign a world class forward who can net between 25 and 30 the likes of Mahrez, Sanchez and Ozil could provide plenty of chances, not to mention Jack Wilshire coming back into the frame.
Barcelona have a galaxy of stars that goes well beyond the forwards trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Behind them Barcelona have Ivan Rakitic and Andreas Iniesta pulling the strings but in terms of assists Mahrez would be ahead of all of them with his 17. There is little doubt that Mahrez could compete at Barcelona but a real test of his ability will come next season in the Champions League. If Leicester perform well then Mahrez stock would soar. The recent rumours of Hatem Ben Arfa joining the Spanish outfit also pour cold water over the Mahrez links.
Another club sniffing around Mahrez will be French champions PSG. The Parisians dominate Ligue 1 and will know Mahrez well from his Le Havre days. Despite playing three years for Le Havre Mahrez only appeared 60 times in the league scoring six goals – it was in England where he began to show his huge talent.
PSG have some big players in the midfield positions including Javier Pastore, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi. Mahrez beats all of them for attacking stats this season. Even PSG’s top two assist makers Angel Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic do not compare to Mahrez, Di Maria has 15 to Ibrahimovic’s 13. PSG have scored 97 goals in the league this season compared to the 67 that Leicester have netted which makes the achievement of Mahrez even more outstanding.
Mahrez has outdone himself along with many of the Leicester players this season and deserve all the accolades coming to him. The added pressure of being league champions and the extra Champions League games next season will be something that manager Claudio Ranieri will have to consider. There is no doubt that any club would love to have the money that Mahrez would generate from a sale but his value to Leicester is worth so much more on the pitch than in their bank.