Riyad Mahrez is sure to be one of the hottest properties on this summer’s transfer market after the Algerian forward handed in a transfer request at Leicester City. His goals and assists propelled the Foxes to a highly unlikely Premiership title in 2015-16 and he bagged the PFA Player of the Year award due to his flair and dynamism. He remained loyal to Leicester but they endured a miserable campaign this time around, and the 26-year-old feels the time is right to move on. Competition for his signature will be fierce, with Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool rumoured to be among the clubs circling, but Tottenham could make a fantastic statement by snapping him up. Here are five reasons why Mahrez could be the man to fire Spurs to glory:
1. He is a game changer
Spurs have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, finishing third behind Leicester and Arsenal in 2015-16 and then second behind Chelsea this season. They have done so based on supreme defensive solidity, a strong core, the goals of Harry Kane and the drive of Dele Alli. But there is a sense that to take the next step and finally win the title they need a superstar game changer. The familiar refrain from Spurs fans is: how good would this team be if Gareth Bale were still here? Tottenham have forged a cohesive unit with great togetherness. They are young and improving and have all bought into Mauricio Pocchetino’s system. But to kick on they need a game changer, someone that will turn a 0-0 away draw at Stoke or West Brom into a 1-0 win with a flash of individual brilliance, conjured out of nothing. Bale would have been perfect due to his explosive pace, power and long range shooting ability, but he is gone and it is time to move on. Mahrez has the ability to be that game changer.
2. He would complement Kane and Alli
Kane has won the Golden Boot for three years in a row and his place in the team is nailed on. Ditto Alli, who is one of the most exciting young talents in Europe. It will have to be a wide forward that forces his way into the set-up, someone that can bring something different to the table alongside Kane, Alli and Christian Eriksen. It is too soon to claim Mahrez is on the level of Bale, but he can stake a serious claim to being a top-class forward, and he would kick on with better players around him. He is not quite as quick as Bale, but he still has pace to burn, superb finishing ability, wonderful trickery and a brilliant eye for a pass. In 2015-16 he was the most exciting player in the league, the first name on the team sheet for fantasy football players. That puts him among an elite group of recent Premiership superstars: Bale, Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie.
3. He has proven quality in the Premiership and Champions League
Mahrez was a revelation in his first season at the King Power Stadium and his dynamic attacking play kept Leicester up. In 2015-16 he was the best player in the league, bar none. He did not really kick on this season, but that is more a reflection of Leicester’s woes – the Foxes battled relegation all season and only rallied near the end of the campaign to finish 12th – as they missed N’Golo Kante’s presence in the engine room, rather than a reflection of Mahrez’s ability. With 10 goals and seven assists, he still enjoyed a more productive season than most in his position, and he lit up the Champions League as Leicester reached the quarter-finals. Tottenham will be competing on all fronts next season and need someone of real pedigree to help them challenge. Bookmakers are still unconvinced that Spurs have what it takes to win the league. Making a statement of intent by signing Mahrez could convince everyone that Tottenham are to be taken seriously and a force to be reckoned with.
3 If they don’t sign him, Arsenal might
Mahrez is the sort of player that would slot into the Arsenal side and excel at The Emirates, with Arsene Wenger’s focus on free-flowing, attacking football. That could make the Gunners a real danger to Tottenham’s title tilt next season. Instead, Spurs could weaken their rivals’ chances and boost their own by stumping up the £40 million or so it would take to sign him.
4. He is better than what Tottenham already have
It is a lot of money, but that is the current climate, and that would represent far better value for money than the £30 million they spent on Moussa Sissoko or the £26 million they spent on Erik Lamela. Mahrez would certainly bring a new dimension to Tottenham’s attacking play and you have to imagine they would be improved with him in the side. He is a superior player to Sissoko and Lamela and would expect to nail down a place in the side.
5 He is creative and hard-working, so he would fit into Pochettino’s system
Mahrez was part of an all-action Leicester side that romped to the title thanks to its exciting brand of high-energy, hard-pressing football. That is exactly the type of game Pocchetino wants Spurs to play. Mahrez has the stamina to work hard defensively for his team, and the flashes of creative brilliance to decide tight games. Spurs will have a significant financial boost from qualifying for the Champions League, and do not really need to invest much in what is a very settled, strong and improving side packed full of exciting youngsters. They can afford to spend big on just one or two players that can make a real difference to first-team matters, and Mahrez fits the bill. Another striker is also a priority, to deputise for Kane, but more creativity could help improve Tottenham’s away record and their Champions League ambitions.