Leicester fighting to retain Mahrez

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez is helped to a car after leaving a restaurant where he and his team-mates were celebrating their league win. The Algerian has become much sought after after his consistently swashbuckling displays were instrumental in he
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez is helped to a car after leaving a restaurant where he and his team-mates were celebrating their league win. The Algerian has become much sought after after his consistently swashbuckling displays were instrumental in helping the Foxes to their maiden league title, helping him scoop the PFA Player of the Year award along the wayPHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Leicester City will open talks over a new contract for Riyad Mahrez in the next two weeks to ward off interest for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, although his agent has admitted there is a "50-50 chance" he could leave this summer.

Mahrez, who joined Leicester in 2014 from French side Le Havre for just £375,000 (S$736,600), has attracted widespread attention from football clubs in England and overseas with his performances in their remarkable title-winning season.

The Algerian international has directly contributed to 28 of the league goals scored by Claudio Ranieri's side this season and has been linked with moves to Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester United.

Mahrez, 25, still has three years of an extension he signed last August to run, which is believed to be worth around £35,000 a week.

Talks with Leicester over a new deal are scheduled to begin soon, with the club prepared to at least double his wages. Mahrez also finished second behind team-mate Jamie Vardy in the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year.

However, when asked whether his client could leave the King Power Stadium this summer, Mahrez's agent Kamel Bengougam said: "Yes of course there is a possibility. When you have been playing the way Riyad has this season it is bound to attract attention.

"He is very happy with Leicester and of course it has been a fantastic season. They will play in the Champions League next year as well so he would be happy to stay.

"But at his age if the opportunity comes to play for a big team then we would have to think about it. I'd say it's 50-50 at the moment whether he stays or goes."

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester's vice-chairman, said earlier this week that they are determined not to allow any of their star players to leave as they plan for the club's first season in the Champions League.

In February, Ranieri warned that they could end up "carrying bags" at bigger clubs if they leave. But given the interest of some of the European heavyweights in Mahrez and midfielder N'Golo Kante, moves could be difficult to resist.

Kante is understood to have a £19.6 million release clause in his contract and has been linked with Chelsea, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

Mahrez has previously indicated that he is happy to stay at Leicester but he has been watched several times this season by scouts from Barcelona.

"We have interest from the UK and overseas," admitted Bengougam. "We will have to see what develops over the next few weeks."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Leicester fighting to retain Mahrez'. Print Edition | Subscribe