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Why European giants Arsenal, Barcelona are after Leicester hotshot Mahrez

COMMENT: Leicester City are in brilliant form this season, and it's no exaggeration to say they've got the Premier League's most in-form player flying down the flanks at King Power Stadium.

The Barclays Player of the Month award hasn't been awarded yet, but you can bet Riyad Mahrez will be in contention after a blistering start to the new season that has Arsenal and Barcelona, no less, interested in securing his services.

A move to one of these European giants would represent one hell of a transformation for the Algerian, who was plucked from obscurity by Nigel Pearson in early 2014. The-then Foxes boss saw enough in the tricky winger to warrant a £350,000 transfer fee from French Ligue 2 outfit Le Havre - a deal which surely would have taken some convincing of the Leicester board given it was for an unproven foreign player with a technical style seemingly not suited to the English game.

Yet Mahrez took to the Championship, firstly, and then the Premier League like a duck to water, and is a key reason the Foxes have a Premier League status at all, let alone a very early spot in Champions League placings.

He was critical to the Foxes escape from relegation in the latter part of last season, where they won seven of their last nine to rise from last in mid-April to 14th position at season's end, six points clear of trouble.

Mahrez bagged four goals in that campaign, a number he has sensationally reproduced already this season. A brace against Sunderland was followed by classy finishes against West Ham and Tottenham.

Leicester are undefeated at this early part of the campaign (a feat that seemed unlikely after Pearson's controversial summer sacking) and indeed have lost just once in their past 13 league matches.

Recent reports have linked Mahrez with moves to Arsenal and Barcelona, with the latter said to be considering a transfer to replace outgoing Chelsea forward Pedro.

That the Catalan giants are considering a like for like replacement says something in itself, given Pedro has been a part of five La Liga titles, three Champions League wins and a World Cup triumph.

That Arsenal are interested is somewhat more of a surprise, given he hardly fits into Arsene Wenger's one touch style of play. Yet not one Gunners' supporter would begrudge a move for the Algerian, given their team's uninspiring displays in front of goal so far this campaign.

Mahrez brings a sense of adventure to this Leicester team, with no-one in the stadium (more than likely including himself) sure of his next move. He is a dynamic player who makes things happen in a Luis Suarez type of way, and while far from being the complete package that Suarez is (short of his controversies), he brings the same sort of magic to a game that attracted Barcelona to the Uruguayan.

The 24-year-old put pen to paper on a new four year deal in August, designed to keep him at the club until 2019. Should Leicester decide to sell before then, be it in January, next summer or perhaps further down the track, they will make a sizeable profit from the pittance they paid last year.

Until then though, Mahrez will continue to be the dazzler they come through the gates to watch in the East Midlands and elsewhere around England.

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Tim McGlone
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Tim McGlone

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