Barcelona are leading the race to sign Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez, who has reportedly turned down a new £80,000-a-week deal to stay with the Premier League champions.
Arsenal, a long with the Catalans, are the other big name in the race to sign the Algeria international, who lit up the Premier League last campaign, as the Foxes defied the odds to top the league.
It is understood that Luis Enrique's side have stepped up their pursuit of Mahrez, after having shown an interest in the France-born winger during the second half of the season. And it is understood that the Foxes star will cost around £35 million.
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Mahrez netted 17 goals and produced 11 assists, as Leicester saw off stiff competition from Tottenham throughout the season, to secure a first top division title in the club's history, and see Claudio Ranieri win the Premier League during his first season at the club.
It is yet another incredible rise for a Leicester player, who cost the club just £375,000 from French club Le Havre, and has risen through the ranks to prove himself at the highest level.
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The PFA Player of the Year signed a new deal last August, which runs until the summer of 2019, with Leicester under no pressure to sell, earning the 25-year-old £35,000 a week. But N'Golo Kante's departure to Chelsea has seemingly got Mahrez's mind set on a big move of his own.
As reported by the Guardian, earlier this week, Ranieri said: “He remains with us. He’s not the kind of man who will say: ‘Coach I want to leave.’ He is happy here,”
But Mahrez's agent, Kamel Bengougam, seemingly has other ideas, saying: “He is very happy with Leicester and of course it has been a fantastic season. They will play in the Champions League next year as well, so he would be happy to stay.
“But at his age, if the opportunity comes to play for a big team, then we would have to think about it. I’d say it’s 50/50 at the moment whether he stays or goes.”
Understandably, given the circumstances, the winger is not looking to force a move, although, if the opportunity to switch to a big European club presents itself, he would accept the opportunity to leave the King Power Stadium.
Will Riyad Mahrez be a Barcelona player by the start of the new season? Have your say in the comment box below.