It’s been almost three months since Leicester City were crowned champions of the Premier League, but it now seems they have a fight on their hands to keep their title-winning squad together.
N’Golo Kante has already left the King Power Stadium for Chelsea, while Jamie Vardy had his head turned by Arsenal before deciding to remain at the Foxes. But now, it’s time for Claudio Ranieri to get worried about keeping hold of Riyad Mahrez.
The Algerian was arguably the side’s most influential player last season, with 17 goals and 12 assists in the league, and was rewarded by being voted PFA Player of the Year.
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Last weekend, unconfirmed - and ultimately incorrect - reports from France suggested that Arsenal had agreed a deal with the winger. While that clearly wasn’t the case, it’s widely reported that the Gunners are interested in securing his services.
But, with Mahrez weighing up his future, his Italian manager has a clear message for him.
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“I think Mahrez for us is very important as our light. If he goes in another big team, there are so many lights, so many stars, why?” he said, per the Mirror.
“Stay with us, it’s much better, much better. He’s our champion. If he goes in another team, there are so many champions.”
The Mirror are claiming that, if Mahrez does decide to stay at the champions, he will be rewarded with a £100,000-per-week deal to put him on par with Vardy.
But, with many pundits suggesting that Leicester are unlikely to come close to emulating their incredible success of last season, Mahrez may look to move in search of further silverware.
However, Ranieri has warned him that one poor performance at a bigger club could see him benched - something that doesn’t happen at Leicester.
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“He knows me, I know him very well and I understand when he plays so-so and I can permit to stay on the pitch,” he added.
“With another manager, when he plays so-so, there are so many other stars I put him on the bench.
“It’s important you give confidence. But if you put him on the bench he gets down. I think, I hope he can stay with us because it’s important for us and it’s important for him.”
Whether Mahrez will take Ranieri’s advice and remain at the title winners remains to be seen, but Arsenal fans will be praying that the Italian’s advice falls on deaf ears.
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