Former PFA player of the year Riyad Mahrez has signalled his desire to leave Leicester City this summer. In a statement published on Tuesday (30 May), the Algerian midfielder, who signed a new four-year contract last August amid interest from Arsenal, claimed he agreed to remain with the Foxes for one more season following their incredible fairy tale title triumph – but now felt it was time to move on and seek a "new experience" citing his burning ambition.
After the sublime highs of 2015-16, last season, extraordinary run to the Champions League quarter-finals aside, saw Leicester brought back down to earth with a bump. They quickly morphed back into relegation candidates and made the difficult decision to dismiss Claudio Ranieri before moving away from the bottom three. They finished 12th courtesy of a run of seven wins in 13 matches under Craig Shakespeare, who is still yet to learn if his short-term contract will be extended.
Mahrez's domestic form mirrored that initial slump, with the talented midfielder registering only six goals and four assists in 36 Premier League appearances – a drop of 11 and six respectively. He scored four times in Europe's premier club competition.
"Out of the huge admiration and respect I hold for Leicester City Football Club I wanted to be totally honest and transparent with them and have therefore informed the club that I feel now is the time for me to move on," the statement began, as per Sky Sports.
"I had a good discussion with the chairman [Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha] last summer and we agreed at that time that I would stay for another year in order to help the club as best as I could following the transition of winning the title and in the Champions League. However, I am fiercely ambitious and feel that now is the time to move on to a new experience.
"I've always enjoyed a good relationship with the chairman and everyone at the club, and I hope I have been able to repay the faith shown to me by my performances and commitment on the pitch during my time here.
"I've had the four best seasons of my career at Leicester and have loved every moment. I feel immense pride to have been a part of what we have achieved during my time at the club, culminating in becoming Premier League champions. The relationship I share with the club and our amazing fans is something I will treasure forever and I truly hope they will understand and respect my decision."
Goal reports that long-term suitors Arsenal have re-emerged as favourites to sign Mahrez, despite their failure to secure Champions League football for the first time in two decades. They further claim that reigning Ligue 1 champions Monaco, now minus Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva, have been priced out of the race for a player that is expected to cost in the region of €40m (£34.7m, $44.5m).
It was suggested in March that the 26-year-old, who arrived in English football from Le Havre in a €450,000 deal back in January 2014, was also a target for La Liga giants Barcelona.