Riyad Mahrez has been a fraction of the player he was last season when he helped Leicester City win the Premier League and caught the interest of Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The Gunners bid couldn’t tempt the Algeria international away from the King Power Stadium, who decided to snub the interest of some of Europe’s biggest clubs in order to sign a new four-year £100,000-a-week deal with the Foxes.
Mahrez shook up the Premier League last campaign – producing 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League on his way to being named the PFA Player of the Year – and set a new benchmark for himself.
But despite all the hype surrounding Leicester’s players last season, Mahrez – recognised as the best in the league last campaign – has been unable to woo football fans in the same way as he did in 2015/16.
The 26-year-old, much like the Foxes’ form, has nosedived this season – scoring five goals – and would have many believing that the former Le Havre winger’s dreams of playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi were all but over.
Mahrez stated last season: “It’s not my goal or my dream, but obviously everyone wants to play with Messi. One day, maybe. Why not?
“I always watch Barcelona on the TV at home because I like how they play. To me, Messi is the best of the best. You can’t say anything to him, he’s the boss.”
According to the Telegraph, however, Barcelona are still very much interested in Mahrez, who is starting to show glimpses of the form he produced last season, along with Leicester’s current revival in a bid to avoid relegation.
The Foxes, though, are in the perfect position to demand a hefty fee for the Algerian who has three years remaining on his current deal and will only let their star man leave for the Camp Nou if the Catalan giants are willing to meet their £40 million price tag.
Mahrez has no release clause in his current deal and having signed a new contract just last August, the reigning Premier League champions will not be bullied by their European counterparts and will demand their best possible price.
Leicester managed to negotiate a £30 million fee for N’Golo Kante to Chelsea last summer, and Mahrez seems destined to be the next big name to leave the club with Barcelona ready to test the club’s resolve – having had a consistent interest in the winger for the past 12 months.
But before any potential move to Spain for Mahrez is on the cards, he and his Foxes side will travel the country themselves for their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid where they will, once again, look to use their underdog status to their advantage.