Sunday 18 February 2018

Unsettled Mahrez given team's backing

'Signed for £400,000 from Le Havre in 2014, Mahrez is now on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs' Photo: Getty
'Signed for £400,000 from Le Havre in 2014, Mahrez is now on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs' Photo: Getty

Jon Culley

Riyad Mahrez's team-mates are urging Leicester City fans not to see parallels with Philippe Coutinho and Virgil van Dijk in the Algerian's intention to leave the club.

Neither Liverpool's Coutinho nor Southampton's Van Dijk have played in their respective teams' opening Premier League matches after signalling their desire to move to bigger clubs, with question marks over their state of mind.

By contrast, Mahrez, who submitted a transfer request at the end of May, played a full part in Leicester's vibrant performance in defeat at Arsenal and set up both goals as they comfortably saw off newcomers Brighton on Saturday - even though time is running out to secure a move in this window.

It was from his partially saved shot that Shinji Okazaki put Leicester ahead inside the first minute and from his corner that the impressive Harry Maguire doubled their lead early in the second half.

Signed for £400,000 from Le Havre in 2014, Mahrez is now on the radar of some of Europe's biggest clubs, but the last 10 days of the transfer window could pass in a stalemate, with Leicester reportedly asking for £50  million for the playmaker.

Yet team-mates Matty James and Danny Simpson say fans should not be surprised he appears able to put all speculation out of his mind when he takes the field.

"We all know he is a good player - every team in the league knows he is a good player now," James said.

"He is also a really, really grounded lad. I think he remembers exactly where he came from. He has been very respectful. He might have his own ambitions but, ultimately, he is a Leicester player. He has been fantastic in these last two games.

"As a player you know (speculation) is part and parcel of the game. All the lads want him here but, if he goes, he goes and, if he stays, he stays. He has done a lot for this club and you don't want to ruin that relationship."

Simpson echoed James in applauding Mahrez's focus in putting uncertainty over his future to the back of his mind.

"Some people don't," Simpson said. "He's still a Leicester player and you still want him to perform. When he's like he was today he's unstoppable." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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