In the latest Mahrez transfer rumours, reports suggest Chelsea are lining up a £46.5mil bid for Leicester’s attacking midfielder. The Algerian has been subject of strong interest from Roma for most of the transfer window but the Italians aren’t thought to have got close to Leicester’s asking price leaving Chelsea as the front runners for his signature. Mahrez has been public in his desire to leave so Leicester City’s willingness to sell looks the main obstacle to any potential deal.
We take a closer look at Mahrez and where he would figure if he was to join Chelsea…
Nationality: 30 caps 8 goals
Position: can play anywhere in attacking midfield, preferring the right-side, he can also play wide midfield
Reported Transfer Fee: £46.5mil
2016/17 League Stats: 33 starts (3 sub appearances) 6 goals (3 assists)
Mahrez had made it known early in the transfer window that he wanted to leave Leicester, preferably for a team playing in the Champions League. Leicester have been open and fairly reasonable in their response, stating they would not stand in his way if an acceptable offer, in the £50mil region, was received.
Mahrez signed a new four-year contract with Leicester in August 2016 so Leicester’s position isn’t completely weakened by their willingness to sell. Leicester’s approach to selling Mahrez seems firm but fair from the outside.
The most concrete interest up to now had been consistently shown by Roma but they have failed to come close to Leicester’s demands so far. Reports suggest £30-35mil is the most Roma have been prepared to offer for the Algerian.
There has also been suggestions of interest from Arsenal and even Man Utd but neither really look like firming up their interest with an offer. A lot of it seems like the usual unsubstantiated paper talk. However the recent interest and suggestions of an offer from Chelsea seem to be reported more widely.
Like much of the Leicester team, Mahrez had a disappointing season as a Premier League Champion. The season before he was voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year but last season never really got going for him as he and the team struggled for form. 6 goals and 3 assists compared to 17 goals and 11 assists shows how much his own form dropped. I’m not sure he was fully committed to the cause last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if his unrest didn’t start last season.
On his day Mahrez has shown he can be unplayable but so far he’s only been able to produce such standards, consistently, for one season. For me, there’s still some unanswered questions as to whether he is good enough to be an important player for a top club challenging for trophies year in and year out. I’m not completely convinced at the moment that his Player of the Year wasn’t just a one off.
I’ve touched upon Chelsea’s squad already when discussing a possible Barkley deal and there’s some similarities here but Mahrez has shown a level of performance which Barkley has not. So that in itself gives Mahrez a greater chance to establish himself at Chelsea. Mahrez would come with a bigger reputation and has been a big part of something special at Leicester, perking the interest of some top European clubs in the last few years.
In terms of the quality of the competition he’d be facing at Chelsea for a position in the team, Mahrez isn’t too far behind, if at all.
It’s fairly widely accepted that Hazard is on another level or two, when on form, to most other attacking midfielders in the league. I rate Willian very highly too but Conte uses him sparingly considering his talent in my opinion, often preferring Pedro who offers something a bit different with his direct running and movement.
If Conte fancies Mahrez in the same way he has every chance to become a first team regular. The hardest thing for Mahrez would be maintaining the consistency and keeping his place I feel given how he has blown hot and cold at times.
The fact Hazard tends to prefer the left and Mahrez the right also helps if Conte was to stick with last season’s 3-4-3 formation.
In terms of Leicester, losing Mahrez would be a big blow and would leave them with very little time to find a good replacement (which they’d definitely need). Losing the Algerian would really only leave Albrighton and Demarai Gray as the recognised wide midfielders. Young left back Chilwell can play more advanced but I’m not even sure he’s ready to be relied on in his natural position of left back, let alone in a position he’s not used to.
The same applies to some extent to prospect Gray, who despite his talent, is still quite inexperienced so inconsistency is almost guaranteed. There’s such an onus on the wide positions in Leicester’s system to provide goals and assists, the best situation would be for Gray to be eased into the first team picture this season as a rotational option rather than replace someone as hugely important as Mahrez .
Time is not on Chelsea’s side or anyone else interested in Mahrez. Leicester may be willing to do business on their terms but with the transfer window’s closure looming, I’m not sure how much longer Leicester’s terms will be available.
At the best of times, for a club like Leicester, it would be near impossible to replace a player of Mahrez’s quality.
A move is also obviously dependent on how strong Chelsea’s interest actually is. We know they can afford Mahrez and if they want him, we know they will pay. Mahrez wants to leave to a bigger club so there’s no problems on that front either.
Chelsea need some extra depth so I’m sure they will move for one or two midfielders by the end of the transfer. A lot may depend on the availability of other targets but Mahrez is looking as likely as anyone.
This rumour needs a bit more momentum for me to be confident of it happening but it certainly has a chance, albeit maybe a small one.
Do you think Chelsea should move for Mahrez? Do you think they will? Is he good enough? Leave your comments below.