Liverpool could steal a march on Man City and solve their midfield problems in signing Riyad Mahrez, argues Joe Rimmer.
Could the answer to Liverpool’s transfer problems be staring them right in the face?
Or, rather, have come up against them three times in the past season.
The Reds so nearly signed Nabil Fekir for £53m from Lyon last week, only for the deal to collapse at the 11th hour.
Fekir had completed a medical, agreed personal terms and had even taken publicity pictures for the club website only for the Reds to have second thoughts on the transfer before Lyon dramatically ended negotiations.
It’s too early to tell whether the Reds could come back to the table for Fekir and with the World Cup ongoing, we certainly won’t know until France’s involvement ends, but if Jurgen Klopp decides against trying again to strike a deal with Lyon, then the Reds boss will be keen to explore other possiblities.
So why not Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez?
The Algerian international has been linked with the Reds in the past and the club denied reports that they had struck a £50m deal with Leicester in the wake of Philippe Coutinho’s departure for Barcelona in January.
Indeed, there’s a reason why many believed he could have been the perfect replacement for the Brazilian at Anfield.
Mahrez does play from the opposite side of the pitch to Coutinho, that much is true. He is often found cutting in from the right onto his favoured left foot, but Leicester have also had success playing him just in-behind Jamie Vardy and deeper in midfield.
At 27, Mahrez is at the peak of his powers and just like Fekir, he could fill a number of roles at Anfield.
He’s also Premier League proven and even has experience of winning the League – who can forget his stunning performances as he helped the Foxes to an unlikely League title in 2015/16? Performances that saw him lift the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Player of the Year awards at the conclusion of the season.
Mahrez’s quality is underlined by Manchester City’s attempts to sign him in January, with Pep Guardiola willing to splash £65m plus for the player’s signature.
City made a number of offers for the midfielder in January, and the player had set his heart on switching to the Eithad.
But their efforts were rejected by the Foxes, prompting Manchester City to withdraw their interest and leave an unhappy Mahrez at the King Power Stadium for the remainder of the season.
He recovered to end the season with 13 goals and 13 assists, an improvement on the 10 goals and seven assists he managed the previous year, but behind the 18 goals and 10 assists he recorded when Leicester won the title.
Mahrez has underlined his class time and again for the Foxes, and if Liverpool can seize on the transfer impasse between City and Leicester, then the Citizen’s loss and be the Reds’ gain.
Jurgen Klopp could strike an early blow against his rivals as he prepares his side to challenge for City’s title next season.
And Mahrez can ensure that any bitter feelings left by Fekir’s failed move are long forgotten.