League leaders Leicester City have already braced themselves for the departure of one of their two crown jewels, with Riyad Mahrez being highly linked for a big-money move to La Liga giants Barcelona, according to a report from the Sunday Mirror.
The Foxes despite planning contract talks with Mahrez, who only penned a new £35,000-per-week, four-year deal last summer, are already becoming resigned to losing the in-form playmaker and goalscorer. Arsenal and Chelsea are also on pursuit for him.
However, it is believed that Leicester are ready to more than double his wages in order to keep a hold on him but interest from giants like Barcelona is growing day by day and sources close to the player suggest he has made his mind for a move to the La Liga giants.
That means a new £75,000-a-week package, exactly similar to the one handed out to Jamie Vardy, will certainly be nowhere near enough to stop Mahrez from leaving Leicester.
The Foxes hierarchy think Vardy’s new deal will mean his long-term future belongs with the surprise title contenders. But they are not that much confident about the chances of succeeding with the extended services of Mahrez.
While Mahrez has proved himself as an important and inspirational figure in Leicester’s unlikely title challenge, he would, obviously, not have the guarantee to start with Barcelona in every match due to the Catalan’s stellar line-up.
He cannot really operate in a midfield three so would have to be Enrique’s first replacement for Messi or Neymar. It’s not a terrible position to be in, but with very little chance of regular first-team football.
But the allure that Nou Camp would offer will outweigh any concerns about game-time, according to those sources close to the player who turns 25 this weekend.
But there will be plenty of challengers in the summer market to hijack Mahrez with Chelsea and Arsenal remain huge admirers and only a strong bidding war would be the one thing that could put off Barcelona.
The Catalan giants are expected to price Mahrez in the £20-£25million bracket. While the likes of Chelsea might move ahead with higher price tag, but Barcelona’s decision would vastly depend on the player’s point of view.
No doubt, Leicester would love to keep both Vardy and Mahrez with them following the pair’s sensational run of form but may not see the loss of only one of them as the biggest disaster.