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The Case Against Riyad Mahrez

Given Their Flourishing Midfield and Recent Overpriced Transfers, Is the Leicester Winger Truly Needed at Manchester City?

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Leicester City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

With the deal for Jorginho rumoured to be concluded this month, Manchester City will divert their attention toward their other targets. Purchasing Jorginho will see City strengthen their defensive midfield, albeit the Blues will need to address their frailties at left-back and goal.

The unforeseen injury to Benjamin Mendy led to a spectacular run by make-shift left backs Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko, and it is likely both men could put in a similar performance during the 2018/19 season. The Blues, however, should seek a natural left back as their second option to Mendy. City youngster Angeliño would have been a good addition as a second-string defender, yet he was recently offloaded to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

As for the back-up goalkeeper, it is without a doubt Claudio Bravo improved during the 2017/18 season. The Chilean had some good displays in goal during the EFL Cup, where his antics in a penalty shootout against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City saw Manchester City progress on both occasions. He also had a good performance in the EFL Cup Final, where his side overcame Arsenal to win the trophy. Given Bravo’s age, however, City should focus on acquiring a new back-up goalkeeper.

Another attacking midfielder at this time, however, is not needed. Riyad Mahrez should not move to Manchester City.

Transfer rumours for the Algerian emerged during the Summer 2017 Transfer Window. Following the unsuccessful title retention during the 2016/17 season, Mahrez sought other options within European football. A transfer away from Leicester first emerged in July 2017, where Arsenal and A.S. Roma were rumoured to purchase the winger. Neither option materialized, however, and he remained with the Foxes.

Manchester City then enquired about the winger during the January 2018 Transfer Window. At the time, City’s starting winger Leroy Sané was sidelined with a ligament injury. Moreover, it seemed youngsters Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko looked unfit for the challenge. Hence, a move for Mahrez made sense.

The work ethic of Bernardo Silva, however, diminished the possibility of a deal, as the Portuguese soon found himself as Sané’s replacement. These developments, in addition to Leicester’s unwillingness to depart with Mahrez, prevented the sanctioning of the transfer.

Now, with the Summer 2018 Transfer Window in effect, the Blues have returned to the Foxes with an offer for Mahrez. Based on City’s performance in the previous season, however, there are three reasons why Manchester City should not acquire the Leicester player.

First, City have a wide depth in midfield. During the 2017/18 season, Sané started as the preferred left midfielder, where Bernardo served as his replacement. Depending on the tactics used by City manager Pep Guardiola, David Silva could also alternate on the left side, meaning the Blues had three options for their starting left midfielder. Finally, with the impressive appearances made by Zinchenko, Foden and Brahim Diaz, the Blues potentially have six midfielders who can play on the left in the upcoming 2018/19 season. Given the depth and strength of the squad, it is difficult to see Mahrez break ahead of Sané, Bernardo Silva or David Silva.

Second, City had unpleasant experiences acquiring new talent in recent transfer windows. For example, the City management decided to offload its entire legion of full backs following the 2015/16 season, meaning any club they approached overvalued their players. Such was the case with Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo, which saw the club spend nearly £200m on full backs. This was also the case with Aymeric Laporte. According to Transfermarkt, the Frenchman was valued at roughly £21m, yet the Blues purchased him for £57m, nearly three times his initial value.

Having gone through these experiences, it is likely City are reluctant to overpay Leicester for the Algerian winger. After all, he is currently valued at £45m, which is far from Leicester City’s asking price of £75m. Purchasing the winger would mean the Blues would once again overpay for their target.

Perhaps most importantly, however, are the morals set by Guardiola and the City board. This was especially the case with the enquiry into Alexis Sánchez, where the Chilean and Arsenal sought to take advantage of the Mancunian club. Whilst Sánchez pushed for a higher weekly salary and Arsenal pushed for an expensive transfer fee, City eventually ended the negotiations, citing morals and a desire to play for the club were more important than paying the high fees.

In other words, just because City have money does not mean they should spend it. Instead, the managerial staff and board are more interested in establishing a strong team chemistry rather than acquiring a long list of expensive players.

After all, “together” has become the club’s secondary motto, and City will do whatever they can to maintain their sense of unity. Therefore, perhaps it is best for the Blues to seek alternative and more affordable talent than Riyad Mahrez.