February 1, 2018 / 3:58 PM / 17 days ago

Mahrez conflict poses new challenge for Leicester

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The trouble with transfer deadlines is that while dreams can come true amidst the rush of deals, players can also have their hopes dashed and clubs can be left with the awkward task of patching up damaged relationships.

That is exactly the situation that Leicester City and their manager Claude Puel find themselves in after they were unable to agree terms with Manchester City over the sale of Foxes winger Riyad Mahrez.

The Leicester Mercury newspaper said the Foxes turned down City’s final bid of 65 million pounds plus an unnamed player for Mahrez, a deal that would have broken the Manchester club’s transfer record.

Leicester valued Mahrez at around 95 million pounds, but City were unwilling to meet that fee, according to British media reports.

Mahrez had submitted a transfer request, missed training and was not included in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at Everton following reports that he was “depressed” by the club’s failure to sell him. Some media reports also suggested he was not willing to play for the club again.

But while a summer departure may eventually satisfy the Algerian, who was a key figure in Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title win, Puel now has to ensure the situation does not upset his team, who are in eighth place ahead of Saturday’s game against a revived Swansea City.

”All the players, all the staff, will help him to come back with a smile, to enjoy his football with his team mates because he is a great player, fantastic, a good man and he likes football,” said Puel.

“Of course, for the moment, I did not speak with Riyad but perhaps there is a lot of disappointment. We will see when we can manage all this for the future,” he added.

During the summer transfer window, Mahrez left Algeria’s training camp in order to wait for a move to AS Roma which also failed to materialise.

He was eventually reintegrated into the squad and Leicester’s fans, on the whole, forgave him for his push to leave.

Whether the fans and players react with the same tolerance this time around remains to be seen, as does the issue of whether he will even try to fit back in again.

“I think the players know it will be difficult sometimes for Riyad and we have a fantastic group, squad, all the players have a fantastic relationship and understanding between themselves. All the players will give their best for Riyad,” said Puel.

“We know the situation. We can understand his reaction. It is a difficult situation for him and the club.”

Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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