Claudio Ranieri remains insistent that Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez will not be leaving the defending Premier League champions this summer, despite sustained interest from Arsenal. The PFA player of the year scored 17 top-flight goals, registered 11 assists and produced a number of captivating performances last term as the Foxes recorded one of the biggest shocks in British football history.
Having already failed to entice irrepressible striker Jamie Vardy from the King Power Stadium, Arsene Wenger, under pressure to land big names in the transfer market in order to keep pace with the free-spending Manchester clubs, quickly turned his attentions to Mahrez.
This particular saga has been bubbling throughout the summer and recent disputed reports from a consultant of French daily L'Equipe suggested that Arsenal have launched an improved offer worth £35m ($45.5m) after seeing an initial bid rejected – and the Algerian international is eager to make the switch.
Such persistent speculation does not appear to phase Ranieri, who claims that Mahrez has told him that he will remain with Leicester. The Foxes lost tireless midfielder N'Golo Kante to Chelsea in July, but their manager believes that the two cases are clearly different due to the absence of a release clause.
"He [Mahrez] stays with us," he told Sky Sports. "We wanted to keep all our players. Of course, Kante had the clause and Chelsea paid the clause. But Riyad does not have the clause and he will stay with us. Yes, he told me he will stay with us."
Rumours originating from France regarding Arsenal's pursuit of Mahrez have been challenged by reports in the UK suggesting that they are yet to submit a formal proposal. Wenger has made three signings so far during the current transfer window – in Granit Xhaka, Takuma Asano and Rob Holding – yet has been frustrated in his pursuit of Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. Vardy chose to put pen to paper on a lucrative new four-year contract at Leicester worth approximately £100,000-per-week instead of moving to the Emirates.
Unwanted Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony is said to be the latest name on the radar, while Arsenal, who open the new 2016/17 Premier League campaign at home to Liverpool on Sunday, are also hoping to conclude a deal to sign German centre-back Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia. Their options in that position look somewhat thin with knee injury victim Per Mertesacker joined in the treatment room by Gabriel, who will miss six to eight weeks with an ankle injury suffered during the latter stages of last weekend's 3-2 friendly victory over Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in Gothenburg.