Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez reportedly favors a summer transfer to Arsenal and could even complete a move later this week after growing tired of holding out for a potential switch to Barcelona.
According to Lluis Miguelsanz of Catalan newspaper Sport, Barca “have other priorities in the market,” with Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti more pressing targets for the club.
It’s difficult to argue against the belief that Mahrez’s chances of first-team football would be better served at the Emirates Stadium, although his reported €40 million (£35 million) fee could still make him an enticing summer option.
Mahrez has already called it “an honour” to receive interest from Wenger. Speaking to Algerian broadcaster Elheddaf Television (h/t ESPN), he said:
“It is an honour to receive compliments like this from such a big manager in world football. But there is a big difference between words, speculation and an offer, so there is nothing on the table at the moment. As he [Wenger] went on to say, there is nothing concrete, so I will not dwell on that too much yet.
“The chairman and I agreed that I would stay another year at the club and that he would let me leave at the end of the season. I think it would be the right time for me to leave, I have experienced everything at this football club.”
Leicester stood their ground before allowing N’Golo Kante to join Chelsea last summer, and Mahrez could be the next big-name Foxes star out of the door, as his comments suggest he’s ready to leave:
“I went from the Championship to the Premier League, I stayed up with the team the next season, we won the Premier League, I won the PFA player of the year award, I played the Champions League, so we did something quite exceptional. We will see what the future holds for me. I sincerely do not know where I will play next season.”
A lack of UEFA Champions League football may stunt Arsenal’s chances of recruiting Mahrez, but Barca’s failure to move quickly enough could work in their favour as the player seeks his exit from Leicester.