Leicester City playmaker Riyad Mahrez has spoken publicly regarding Arsenal's pursuit of his signature during the summer transfer window. The Algerian international became subject to daily speculation after spearheading his side's almost inconceivable rise from relegation candidates to Premier League champions last term and being rewarded for his significant exploits with the PFA Player of the Year award.
Arsenal were said to hold a particular affection for Mahrez, with August reports from French journalist Gilles Favard suggesting that the Gunners were planning to launch a fresh bid worth £35m ($43.4m) after initially failing with a lower offer of approximately £30m. Rumours of a potential departure from Leicester were further fuelled by the player himself conceding that there were two or three top unspecified clubs in the world that could tempt him to move on.
Such fears eventually proved to be unfounded, however, with Mahrez opting to pen a new four-year contract that ties him to the King Power Stadium until 2020. The 25-year-old has scored three goals in 10 appearances since then – including a brace in Leicester's maiden Champions League outing against Club Brugge last month – and admits that he did not attempt to force an exit after learning of Arsenal's interest.
"There was contact with Arsenal," he told Canal Football, as relayed by Sky Sports. "But Leicester wanted to keep me and I was pretty expensive. I did not want to create a conflict when the offer came in. Personally, I think it is a good thing I stayed put. It's now up to me to prove myself again."
Despite adapting seamlessly to life in Europe's elite club competition with consecutive wins over Brugge and Porto, Leicester, knocked out of the EFL Cup with a third-round extra-time defeat to Chelsea, have inevitably struggled to repeat that impressive league form and currently sit 12th in the top-flight having taken just eight points from their opening seven matches of the 2016/17 season.
Mahrez has netted just once in the Premier League so far this term, scoring from the spot in a shock opening day loss to newly-promoted Hull City. He has yet to rack up an assist either, although did combine with Foxes teammate Islam Slimani to set up an early goal for El Arabi Soudani as Algeria drew 1-1 with Cameroon in their opening Group B 2018 World Cup qualifier in Blida on Sunday (9 October). FC Lorient forward Benjamin Moukandjo equalised for the Indomitable Lions before half-time.