The last thing Leicester needed right now was a picture surfacing of Riyad Mahrez in a Barcelona shirt.
The playmaker has been linked with the Catalan giants but, in the midst of a Premier League title run, the Foxes need all of their players concentrating on their upcoming fixtures.
Of course, the pictures, which were uncovered by Mundo Deportivo, do not suggest the Algerian is signing for Barcelona. Yet Leicester would have preferred them not to surface on social media.
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The 25-year-old was captured wearing a Blaugrana shirt from the 2013-14 campaign. Barcelona are one of the best-supported clubs in the world and it’s no surprise Mahrez is a fan.
According to Mundo, the Spanish club do not expect to sign the Leicester star in the summer. Mahrez is the star of the show at the King Power Stadium and next season will be able to showcase his talents in the Champions League.
Leicester aren’t strapped for cash, either. The Premier League’s new £5.1 billion TV deal, which comes into effect next season, means the club can reject offers of £30 million if they wish.
Mahrez would certainly regard a fee around that number. He has been a revelation this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting 11, as Leicester have climbed to the top of the table.
Player of the Year contender
The former Le Havre man, signed for £400,000 in 2014, is in contention to be crowned the Premier League’s Player of the Year.
And his biggest rival for the award is his partner in crime, Jamie Vardy. The England striker leads all Premier League forwards with 19 goals and, along with Mahrez, has fired Leicester to the brink of unexpected glory.
Claudio Ranieri’s team have a five-point lead atop the Premier League and, with nine games remaining, look less and less likely to throw it away.
The 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday was a sign of champions. They eventually broke down a dogged defence thanks to Mahrez’s super strike.
Can he say no to Barca or Real?
Though Leicester can offer him Champions League football, Mahrez would be unwise to commit his future to the club until after the season finishes.
When Barcelona come calling, it’s hard to say no. He would certainly be a bench-player - he stands no chance of supplanting Neymar or Lionel Messi from the starting line-up - but the opportunity to play for one of Europe’s elite clubs may prove too tempting.
Leicester can’t guarantee they will repeat this season’s heroics next year, either. Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool will all be stronger, while the TV deal will see the rest of the Premier League clubs spend wildly.
Sky Sports’ Spanish insider Guillem Balague recently said Mahrez isn’t a target for Barcelona, but that’s not to say Bayern Munich or Real Madrid haven’t taken notice of the mercurial winger.