This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Speaking to France Football, Riyad Mahrez has opened up about his frustration when a move from Leicester City to Arsenal fell through in 2016.
Mahrez joined Manchester City in the summer of 2018 for a fee of £60m, but the Algeria international insists that he wanted to leave Leicester earlier.
In fact, the 28-year-old has claimed that he was close to joining Arsenal in the summer of 2016, fresh off the back of a season in which he scored 17 goals and got 11 assists to help Leicester win the Premier League title.
Mahrez opened up on this time when speaking to France Football: “After the year of the title, if I was in a top team, it would not have been the same story. For me, it is clear that I lost two years at the very highest level. I lost two years, because instead of being 27 in City, I could have been there at 24, 25 years.
“Leicester blocked me. They told me: “You do not go, you do not go!” My agent had talked with Wenger who really wanted me, it was almost done with Arsenal in the summer of 2016, I was really frustrated.
“It’s not easy to go from being a better Premier League player to being part of a team fighting for support. It’s not the same job. Everyone is waiting for you at the turn, everyone falls on you.”
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This will have been a very frustrating blow for Wenger and those at Arsenal, as Mahrez certainly would have been an asset for the club.
That is shown by his performance last season, where despite making just 14 league starts, coming off the bench 13 times, the Algerian got 7 goals and 4 assists.
He has also shown that he is a man for the big moment, getting a goal and assist in the title-winning game against Brighton & Hove Albion last season, as well as scoring the 94th-minute free-kick that got Algeria to the 2019 African Cup of Nations final.
It can be argued that the Gunners have been in need of defensive reinforcements more than attacking talents down the years, but Mahrez would certainly could have been an effective signing for the Gunners, especially when it is considered they spent £72m on Nicolas Pepe during the summer.
Wenger has established something of a reputation for nearly signing players, with the likes of Jadon Sancho, N’Golo Kante and Lionel Messi all detailed as talents who got away from the internationally revered Frenchman, per talkSPORT.
Mahrez is just another to add to the all-star collection.