The Premier League season is in the books, which means it’s time to turn most of our attention to the transfer window. We’ve already seen a few familiar names change teams, including ex-Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham) and ex-Chelsea backup goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth).
We got a bit of interesting news on Tuesday morning when it was reported that star Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez has announced that he wants to leave the club this summer. Mahrez issued a statement on Tuesday that said “this is the time to move on” from the team he helped lead to a shocking PL championship last season.
Leicester finished just 12th in the league following their title, and the 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year feels now is the time for him to seek greener pastures.
Rumors have swirled regarding the 26-year-old for about a year now. While some of the shine from the 2016 title run may have worn off, there will still be substantial interest in the talented playmaker. Considering Leicester snagged him from Le Havre for just $400,000 in 2014, the Foxes stand to make a substantial profit on the player if he is sold during the summer.
So, who will be interested, and where will the Algerian international wind up? Let’s take a look. SkyBet has transfer odds for a slew of hot names, Mahrez included. Let’s roll through a few of the top options.
SkyBet has the Ligue 1 champions, Monaco, listed as the odds-on favorites to secure the services of Mahrez this summer. However, they may already be out of the running. According to the Metro, Leicester plan to demand $35 million in exchange for Mahrez. A member of Mahrez’s “entourage” reportedly told Goal that the player will demand a minimum salary of $6 million next season.
Apparently, that number is too pricey for Monaco to afford. While they emerged this past season as one of Europe’s strongest sides, they currently do not have the finances to match some of Europe’s historical powerhouse clubs. In short, they can’t afford to pay that fee for Mahrez, despite the player being an ideal fit with what they want to do on the pitch.
This could change in the coming weeks, but there is already very little value with 4/6 odds, anyway. Move along.
Okay, now we’re talking. With Monaco potentially being priced out, Arsenal seem to be the team with the most interest. The club’s failure to secure a spot in Champions League next season will likely hurt their chances to land many big-name stars this summer, but that reportedly wouldn’t be a deterrent to a potential Mahrez deal.
The Gunners were interested in adding Mahrez to the mix last summer before the player ultimately decided to stay with Leicester. Reports indicate that Mahrez would prefer to remain in England, which certainly boosts Arsenal’s chances at landing the star winger. Manager Arsene Wenger reportedly spoke with Mahrez over the phone in an attempt to show interest last summer, so it stands to reason the Gunners will be in the mix again. However, we don’t even know if Wenger himself will be sticking with the club.
Because both Manchester clubs have already spent millions fortifying their respective midfields over the last two summers, there really isn’t room for Mahrez on either team. One would imagine if Mahrez is keen on staying in England, he’s going to want to go to one of the league’s top clubs. If the Manchester clubs are out of the picture, that essentially leaves Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Arsenal was perhaps the league’s biggest disappointment (non-United division) last season, and adding a player as influential as Mahrez could be just what the doctor ordered. Pairing him with Alexis Sanchez in midfield would be a serious boon to the Gunners’ attack, and the left-footed Algerian would be a perfect complement on the right side of the field for Alexis.
If Monaco is really out of the mix here, Arsenal make plenty of sense at 7/2.
Chelsea stole all-world midfielder N’Golo Kante from Leicester last summer, and could they make it two in a row by getting Mahrez, too? Why not? There aren’t many holes in the Chelsea XI, but one would imagine the English champs could make room for him if he were to show interest. He was also linked to the Blues ahead of last season.
Chelsea could probably field the same team again next season and still challenge for the title, but you can never have enough upgrades. All of their chief rivals are set to spend some serious money this summer, so it would behoove Chelsea to try and keep up. They don’t need as much of an overhaul as a team like Arsenal, but adding Mahrez to an already-deep midfield would make the champs all the more strong ahead of their title defense season.
There aren’t many weaknesses currently in this side. Really the one thing that could undo Chelsea next season is complacency. We saw it bite them two years ago when they staggered to an eighth-place finish the season after winning the league. They were second in goals scored (85) and goals allowed (33) this past season, and Chelsea’s 93 points were the most in one season for any club since Chelsea’s 95 in 2004-05.
A midfield consisting of Mahrez, Kante and Eden Hazard would be borderline unfair. Look for Antonio Conte to make a serious run at keeping Mahrez from his London rivals this summer. Chelsea at 8/1 look like a strong bet to land the Algerian.
Tottenham Hotspur (12/1)
Were it not for Chelsea’s exploits, Tottenham would’ve cruised to the Premier League title this past season. In fact, Spurs’ 86 points would’ve been good enough to win the league in most years, including last year when Leicester took the title on 81 points. They were first in the league in goals scored and allowed, which indicates that Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t have much work to do in order to field a strong title challenging next season.
Spurs are one of the most aesthetically pleasing clubs to watch in all of England, and adding Mahrez to the mix would make them even more watchable. His fluid style would fit seamlessly alongside the likes of Erik Lamela, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Pochettino has reportedly had his eye on Mahrez, and an agreement would make plenty of sense for both sides.
If we had odds on which city Mahrez will call home starting next season, London would certainly be heavy the heavy favorite. All three of the Premier League’s top London clubs figure to be in the running here, and it may just come down to Mahrez’s preference. Spurs would seem to have as good a chance as anyone else in the city of landing the star midfielder.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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