Transfer Focus: Mahrez still a top talent PL’s heavyweights should be courting

According to reports from The Daily Star, £100million’s worth of talent could leave Leicester City during the summer transfer window.

What’s the word?

Having failed to come anywhere near their miraculous title-winning form of 2015/16, it seems the exodus from the King Power Stadium many expected last summer will take place in the coming transfer window, with Riyad Mahrez, Kasper Schmeichel, Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa and Leonardo Ulloa all reportedly ‘set’ to move on.

Of the five, last season’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez is garnering the most interest. Earlier this week, The Telegraph claimed the Algerian international expects to be allowed to leave this summer following a promise made by Claudio Ranieri at the end of last season, linking him with previous admirers Arsenal and Tottenham.

The Daily Star, meanwhile, go one step further, mooting PSG, Liverpool, Manchester City and even Barcelona as fellow potential suitors – and claiming £35million interest from the French champions will trigger an auction for his services.

Is Mahrez still a top talent?

Mahrez’s 2016/17 has very much echoed Leicester’s as a club. Far from his award-winning, title-clinching form from last season, the 26-year-old has mustered up just six goals and three assists in the top flight  – hardly a level of output worthy of a £35million move to a top Premier League club.

But Mahrez showed his true quality last season and it would be simplistic to think he’ll never be able to produce it again. Eden Hazard was absolutely hopeless last term but has been the best attacking player in the Premier League this season and just because Mahrez doesn’t ply his trade with a top club doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy a similar revival in fortunes – especially if he’s placed in a side that will allow him to flourish offensively rather than continuously tracking back.

Likewise, Mahrez has delivered on the highest stage this term, impressing during his first ever season in the Champions League with four goals and two assists in nine appearances whilst averaging 2.9 successful dribbles per match. Perhaps that should be a better indicator of his true quality, considering Leicester’s domestic struggles under Ranieri this term.

Which club would suit him best?

From the three clubs in question, Tottenham particularly stand out. Mahrez will want to play in a team that asks less of him defensively, but the Algerian showed last season how hard he can work whilst still producing the goods and that fits perfectly into the Mauricio Pochettino ethos. Likewise, Spurs’ attack is crying out for a player who can offer them something a little different in terms of pace, penetration and width. Mahrez can provide that in abundance, or be used as one of the dual No.10s in Tottenham’s occasional 3-4-3 set-up.

That being said, there would be roles for him at Arsenal and Liverpool as well. Sadio Mane’s absences have shown just how much Liverpool’s forward line needs speed and width to stretch opposition defences, and The Telegraph believe the Gunners will also be on the lookout for another wide-man this summer – a need that could magnify should Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil move on.

Whereas Mahrez probably isn’t ready to fill the shoes of either, however, whilst his role in Liverpool’s front three remains a little unclear, he’d be part of the team at Spurs rather than a standout star – something that may suit him a little better after a difficult year in his career.