Leicester have ben protective of their player, or have tried to be, since selling Kante to Chelsea. Riyad Mahrez will only be allowed to leave Leicester City for a club outside the Premier League this summer if he reiterates his desire to leave the King Power Stadium at the end of the season, a source has told ESPN FC.
Mahrez, 26, returned to training with Claude Puel’s squad on Friday morning after staying away from the club following Leicester’s refusal to sell him to Manchester City on transfer deadline day.
Mahrez remains determined to leave Leicester at the end of the season, with the player believing that he has been loyal to the club since helping them to their surprise Premier League title success in 2015-16.
Arsenal have held a long-standing interest in Mahrez, while City manager Pep Guardiola could yet return for the winger in the summer. City had been prepared to negotiate a deal worth as much as £65 million, including a first-team player in part exchange, for Mahrez after losing Leroy Sane for up to six weeks with an ankle injury.
But Leicester’s Thai owners rejected City’s approach, with the Premier League leaders made aware that it would take a British record transfer fee of £95m to land Mahrez, who cost just £400,000 when he arrived from French side Le Havre in 2014.
But despite the prospect of banking a lower fee by selling Mahrez to a European club, Leicester are reluctant to allow Mahrez to join a Premier League rival and efforts will be made to find a buyer in Spain, Italy, France or Germany if the player cannot be persuaded to remain at the club.
Roma, who pursued Mahrez last summer, continue to have an interest in the player, but not at the price that Leicester quoted City last week.
Despite returning to training with Leicester on Friday, meanwhile, Mahrez will not be considered for the squad for Saturday’s Premier League clash with City at the Etihad Stadium.
Conor Lynott – Sports Editor