Despite having an interest in Riyad Mahrez, a deal no longer looks on this summer.
Riyad Mahrez to Arsenal is beginning to look like one of those deals that’s always mentioned but, for one reason or another, never happens.
There are two very obvious reasons why a deal might not happen this summer. The first is that Arsenal want Monaco’s Thomas Lemar instead. The second is that Leicester’s asking price is far above what Arsenal would be willing to pay for him.
From Mahrez’s perspective, however, the summer isn’t playing out as he would have liked.
A couple of weeks after the end of last season, Mahrez released a statement formally announcing his intention to leave Leicester. He would have been confident that Arsenal, among other clubs, would still be interested in signing him. After all, the Gunners were interested in signing him the previous summer and Arsene Wenger publicly admitted his interest.
Since then, though, nothing has happened. There’s been no Arsenal bid, contrary to reports, and no other club seem interested. Pre-season is about to begin and he’s still a Leicester player, facing the reality of having to play for a club he doesn’t want to be at. The £50m price tag appears to be doing its job of warding off interest.
Should a move not happen this summer, Mahrez will lose face with the Leicester supporters. Announcing that you’re “fiercely ambitious” and want to play for a bigger club, only to perform a u-turn when it turns out nobody wants you, doesn’t look good for any player. While Arsenal had a role to play in this, it’d be a bit much to blame them. Arsenal are not obligated to buy Mahrez, and are well within their rights to pursuit other targets.
Mahrez made the calculated risk of making a statement of his intention to leave public on his own – a move designed to cash in on the good will he earned with the fans after he promised to stay the previous summer – and at the moment that risk appears to be backfiring.
Transfers, though, are volatile things. It only takes one domino to fall to set off a chain of events. For Mahrez, that domino could be Arsenal failing to sign Lemar. It’s been widely reported that Mahrez is Arsenal’s back-up option in that event and there’s no reason Arsenal and Leicester wouldn’t be able to negotiate a good price.
Should Arsenal sign Lemar, though, Mahrez may rue his indifferent form last season. Had he managed to replicate his outstanding form during Leicester’s title winning season, Arsenal, as well as other clubs, may have seen him as a priority signing rather than a back-up one. His position this summer would have been far stronger.
As it is, poor form has seen him dangle precariously close to “one hit wonder” territory, and he may yet to have to prove his talent once more if he wants his big move.