Mahrez stays a Fox as talks on new deal continue

LONDON • On a day Claudio Ranieri signed a new four-year contract that will keep the manager at Leicester City until June 2020, Riyad Mahrez accepted the fact that he will not be allowed to leave the English Premier League (EPL) champions this month.

Ranieri, 64, who replaced Nigel Pearson last summer and led Leicester to a remarkable first top-flight title, followed key players Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Kasper Schmeichel in committing his future to the club.

"The energy that exists at this club - from the owners and the staff, to the players and supporters - is something very special," said the Italian on Wednesday. "I am very happy and proud that I will be part of it for years to come."

But Mahrez, last season's PFA Player of the Year, had expressed his desire to leave last month after turning down a new contract worth around £80,000 (S$139,300) a week.

Several clubs in the EPL and overseas were reportedly interested in the midfielder's services.

On Wednesday, Leicester's director of football Jon Rudkin met the Algerian international's agent to underline the point that Leicester are not willing to entertain any bid for Mahrez so close to the start of the season with little time left to find a replacement.

Negotiations over a new contract will continue, however, with any agreement potentially resting on whether the 25-year-old would be allowed to leave if a suitable bid is received in future.

Reports in France on Wednesday claimed that Arsenal offered £35 million for a player purchased from Le Havre in 2014 for £375,000, although that was denied by both clubs. Mahrez has also been linked with Chelsea and Barcelona but Leicester have previously indicated that it would take a bid well in excess of £50 million to persuade them to sell.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Mahrez stays a Fox as talks on new deal continue'. Print Edition | Subscribe