Riyad Mahrez is a Leicester City player and will stay a Leicester City player, according to Claudio Ranieri, despite widespread reports suggesting the Algeria international has accepted a move to Arsenal. Leicester are 50-50 in terms of transfer-battles-to-keep-their-star-players-this-season, after Jamie Vardy snubbed a move to the Gunners to stay with the club he guided to the English Premier League title, while N'Golo Kante said arrivederci before signing with Chelsea.
Following that Kante sale to Chelsea, Ranieri had insisted no more of his star players would be leaving the King Power Stadium for pastures anew, but a few hours before Leicester's opening International Champions Cup match, against Celtic, EuroSport France broke a report, saying Mahrez's agent had met with Arsenal after the North London's club's 1-1 draw with Lens on Friday and a deal had been agreed, with the transfer fee in the region of around €50million (£42m).
Soon after that, news broke out saying the agent had denied talking to Arsenal and it was all speculation, leaving the initially excited gooners a deflated bunch. However, the Mahrez to Arsenal transfer talk refused to die down – there was near meltdown on Twitter when some suggested Mahrez was flying to London from Glasgow -- despite the winger starting the preseason match at Celtic Park, where he scored a sumptuous goal.
Ranieri further tried to play down the reports, insisting Mahrez will not be leaving for Arsenal or any other team this summer.
"Did you see how happy Riyad is? He played so well, worked so hard for the team, he scored a goal and he stays with us," Ranieri told reporters after Leicester beat Celtic on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 90 minutes.
"It is very important to keep him, he is one of our stars. Other teams maybe have more stars and maybe he doesn't play at the same level, because maybe he is on the bench, so it is much better he stays with me."
Marc Albrighton, however, was not that certain of his Leicester City teammate staying, even if he was hopeful the Algerian would suit up for the champions rather than Arsenal when the new season rolls on.
"Hopefully what the manager says is right," Albrighton was quoted as saying by The Metro. "You like to hear the likes of Riyad and Jamie Vardy are staying and want to continue what we keep achieving.
"A player of his quality is always going to attract attention from other clubs. The media are only going to keep that up, which you can understand, but as far as Riyad's concerned he's a level headed guy and he does his talking on the pitch.
"You want to keep all your best players. Obviously N'Golo Kante we can only thank for being there last season and helping us to what we achieved. He was outstanding on and off the field, a great guy and as players we wish him all the best for the future."
What Mahrez's future is remains to be seen.
Watch Mahrez's brilliant goal on Saturday below: