London, June 3 (IANS) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has asserted that he is keen to sign Leicester City’s star forward Riyad Mahrez.
This revelation comes hours after news broke of a failed £87m bid by the former English Premier League (EPL) champions for teenaged sensation Kylian Mbappe from reigning French league champions AS Monaco.
“We have not made a bid, but personally, I like the player, yes,” Wenger told beIN Sports of Mahrez, who earlier this week handed in a transfer request at Leicester.
The Algerian scored 17 goals during Leicester City’s victorious EPL campaign in the 2015-16 season which led to his transfer value growing exponentially from $4.5 million to $30.1 million.
However in the following season his form dipped and he scored only six goals in 36 matches.
“I think he made a huge impact when they won the championship. Like everybody else at Leicester, this season has been more challenging, but it doesn’t take away from his qualities.
“Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. No, we have not. When I say ‘not yet’ it means it could happen. It might not happen,” Wenger said.
Wenger has also refuted speculation that he is selling his star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
“This summer first of all they will stay at the club and hopefully we can extend their contract,” said Wenger.
“You cannot weaken the club and weaken the team, and you want to strengthen the team unless you find a player of the same calibre if they absolutely want to leave. I believe that at the moment we are not on that front, we are focused on keeping the team together and seeing how to strengthen the team.”
Wenger’s dreams of keeping Sanchez could well be in danger as various news reports have emerged which reveal that representatives of the Chilean striker have started negotiations with Arsenal’s EPL rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
In order to prevent him from leaving, Arsenal are ready to offer Sanchez £270,000 ($3,48,000) a week. Sanchez, though, wants a minimum of £300,000 ($3,82,500).
“This summer, first of all, they will stay at the club and hopefully we can extend their contract,” Wenger said.
Wenger signed a two-year contract on Wednesday and now has the task of keeping both Ozil and Sanchez to the club with the players entering the final year of their current contracts.
“I believe, at the moment, we’re not on that front. We’re focused on keeping the team together and to see how we can strengthen the team,” the Frenchman said.
“When you sign a contract somewhere, you commit to give your best until the end of the last day of that contract. I would say ‘why should they not give their best?’.
“The interest of any player is always to play football and well, even more so at the end of your contract. If you’re a winner, you want to win the game you’re playing,” he added.
Sanchez ended the season with 30 goals and 15 assists and guided the team to the FA Cup final by scoring the opening goal against Chelsea. Ozil was not that effective throughout the season, with 12 goals and 13 assists.