Despite having three separate bids rejected in January, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is still desperate to sign Leicester City forward Riyad Mahrez. The 27-year-old impressed for the Foxes last season and has made it clear that he’s open to joining a bigger club, so a deal was always dependent on the Sky Blues meeting his asking price.
City already have Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero for competition in attack, but Guardiola wants strength in depth in all positions to challenge on all four fronts next season. The Manchester giants appear to have made a breakthrough with Mahrez too, all but agreeing a £60m deal for the 27-year-old.
Mahrez has big ambition and great mental strength
After helping Leicester City win the Premier League title in 2015/16 and being named PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Mahrez wasn’t interested in resting on his laurels. The Algerian international was already planning to move to a bigger club, but he was denied a transfer.
After handing in a request, he refused to play for Leicester but quickly made a U-turn and made 36 league appearances the following season. Mahrez once again tried to leave, realising his career would become stagnant with the Midlands outfit, but Leicester wouldn’t budge.
So, rather than strike again to force a move, Mahrez had one of his best-ever seasons, scoring and creating 23 goals in 36 league outings as Leicester finished in the top-half of the table. Now it appears City will let him leave this summer and it’s not hard to see why Guardiola pursued him for so long.
Mahrez has never rested on his laurels or been happy to settle, nor has he ever doubted his ability and potential. Even after being refused a move, he could still enjoy one of his best-ever seasons months later, so there’s no doubt the 27-year-old can hit the ground running in Manchester.
Bad news for Phil Foden, Patrick Roberts and maybe Bernardo Silva
If Mahrez joins, one or two existing players are likely to miss out. That could mean Phil Foden and Patrick Roberts have to be loaned out this summer to still get competitive football.
Bernardo Silva’s place in the side might be up for grabs too, with the 23-year-old having struggled in his debut season at the Etihad – 35 league games, six goals, four assists – so the Algerian’s arrival could be somewhat destabilising.
Foden made only five appearances to pick up a Premier League winners’ medal last season and would have been hoping to feature more heavily after a year of being in and out of the first-team, but it looks like he’ll miss out. Roberts has made just three appearances since joining the club in 2015 and has been loaned out for two of those three years.
It’s hard to see him being in the squad next season, but Mahrez joining will make sure of it. Guardiola will have Sterling, Mahrez, Sane and Silva competing for two places in the City attack, so there may not be much room for any inexperienced youngsters. Nevertheless, Mahrez will improve the squad and could help City in their quest for European success.
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