Riyad Mahrez has silenced persistent summer speculation linking him with an imminent move to Arsenal by putting pen to paper on a new four-year contract at reigning Premier League champions Leicester City. The Algerian playmaker was a pivotal figure last term as Claudio Ranieri's side defied gargantuan odds to shock the sporting world and seal their maiden top-flight title, deservedly winning prestigious PFA Player of the Year honours ahead of teammate Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane.
And while Vardy only enhanced his standing at the King Power Stadium in June by rejecting overtures from Arsenal and signing a lucrative extension believed to be worth in the region of £100,000 ($130,425) per week, the question of whether or not Mahrez would follow influential midfielder N'Golo Kante in leaving Leicester had continued to linger.
French journalist Gilles Favard claimed last week that the Gunners planned to submit a fresh offer for the player worth £35m after initially seeing a slightly lower bid of £30m rejected, while Mahrez himself recently appeared to further fuel that exit talk by admitting that there were a small selection of clubs that could tempt him away from Leicester.
"It [the Premier League] is a super league and I would like to stay here as long as possible," he was quoted as saying by France Football. "Now, there are two or three clubs in the world, that if they come for me, it definitely makes you think, if you understand what I am trying to say.
"It is the best league in the world, the most exciting, where there is the most at stake. There is also constantly a little uncertainty. Last year, we won the league. In Spain, you will never see Levante or Granada finishing top. In France, since the new PSG, it is the same. Same in Germany, with Bayern and Dortmund, or in Italy with Juventus. In the Premier League there is a greater depth of teams who can do it with City, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool. They can all win it."
Mahrez is the fourth first-team player to extend their stay at Leicester in recent weeks, with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, captain Wes Morgan and long-serving midfielder Andy King also following Vardy's example. Ranieri always maintained his conviction that the 25-year-old, signed from Le Havre for the miserly sum of just £350,000 in January 2014, would stay put, chiefly due to the lack of a release clause in his previous deal that made Kante's exit after only one season almost inevitable.
"He [Mahrez] stays with us," he said. "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."
Mahrez scored 18 goals for Leicester last term and opened his account from the penalty spot on Saturday (13 August) as the Foxes were beaten 2-1 by depleted and managerless newcomers Hull City to suffer the ignominy of becoming the first champions of England to start the season with a loss since 1989. They host Arsenal this weekend before facing Swansea City, Liverpool, Burnley and Manchester United before October.