At the start of the season, you wouldn’t imagine in a million years that Barcelona and Real Madrid will be doing battle for a Leicester City player.
Especially if that player in question was signed by the Foxes from Le Havre in 2014 for just £350,000.
But that’s exactly the situation surrounding winger Riyad Mahrez.
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Mahrez’s 14 goals and ten assists in the Premier League have, unsurprisingly,attracted the interestof the two Spanish giants as Leicester remarkably sit top of the league.
And Claudio Ranieri has responded to the speculation by admitting he wouldn’t stand in Mahrez’s way if he wanted to leave the club for a European superpower.
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“If I was Riyad, I would say, ‘There are a lot of teams who want me. OK, I have to show more if I want to go there. I have to show my best, because if I do my best maybe they will want to buy me,”he told reporters.
“We want to keep all our players. We believe in them. But if a player says, ‘Boss, I want to go there because it’s my ambition to go there’, I’ll say, ‘Go and enjoy, and good luck’. I want only players happy to stay here.”
However, the Italian boss believes that the 25-year-old may be tempted to remain at Leicester at the end of season if they achieve Champions League qualification.
Ranieri’s men are currently 12 points clear of Manchester United in fifth and are highly likely to finish in the top four.
And the former Chelsea boss thinks that, although being in Champions League won’t make them as big as the two Spanish clubs, it might help persuade their star man to stay.
“Of course, it makes it easier to keep him,” said Ranieri. “For this reason the next five matches are very important. It’s our key. We have to fight because this opportunity won’t come back.
“Of course, we will not be like Barcelona or Real Madrid, but Leicester will be a very good team.”
However, Ranieri fired a warning to Mahrez to concentrate on Leicester’s title bid and not to let any speculation surrounding his future affect him.
“If Riyad plays well he continues to play. If he thinks about other teams then he comes with me on the bench.”
Leicester host Norwich on Saturday knowing that a win would put them five points clear again and the top of the league, with both Arsenal and Tottenham not playing until Sunday.