AFCON success could force Man City to intensify Riyad Mahrez contract talks – Manchester Evening News

To say that Riyad Mahrez has taken the long way round to cement himself as one of the best right-wingers in the world is probably an understatement.

After all, It was only just over eight years ago that he was applying his trade for Le Havre in the second tier of French football.

But ever since sealing a move to Leicester City in January 2014, the Manchester City winger has been on an upward trajectory, so much so that his career is still on an upward spiral, even at the age of almost 31, as he prepares to try and help Algeria defend their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) crown, starting against Sierra Leone this lunchtime.

Whilst Mahrez will be chasing glory with Algeria over the next four weeks, City will be nursing the blow of losing one of their most talented and consisted performers. That is because the winger, who is out-of-contract at the Etihad Stadium at the end of next season, has been in inspired form of late, scoring four goals and grabbing three assists in his last four Premier League appearances.

Having found himself in and out of Pep Guardiola’s preferred starting line-up in the opening weeks of the season, the former Leicester star, who joined City in the summer of 2018, has, once again, cemented himself as a key fixture in the Catalan’s thinking.

As ever, armed with his wand of a left-foot and silky trickery, the Algerian has been key in City’s excellent run of recent form, not just because of his goals and assists, but the energy and eye for a pass he brings to the side.

A look back at Mahrez’s attacking output from the last few seasons tells you just how important he is to what City have achieved. Last season, he scored 14 goals and claimed nine assists, in 2019/20 he notched 13 goals and grabbed 16 assists and in 2018/19 he netted 12 goals and racked up 12 assists.

If anything, consistency ought to be Mahrez’s middle name.

Although City and Guardiola are blessed with attacking talent, both through the middle and out wide, few are capable of hitting such consistent figures as Mahrez has in recent years, with his form in recent weeks certainly highlighting that he is going to continue that trend this season, even though City are going to be unable to rely on his brilliance over the next few weeks.

However, Mahrez’s temporary absence from the Etihad Stadium could be the ideal time to gauge just how important a figure he is in City’s thinking. In his absence, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Cole Palmer are likely to be amongst those chomping at the bit to make the right-wing berth their own.

But there is something about Mahrez and his wand of a left-foot that makes him stand out from the crowd. Although he can often be predictable, with it often the case that he looks to send over a cross via his left-boot or curl a left-footed effort towards goal, it is his quality to be able to do that that makes him so special and who he is.

Aside from Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, not many right-sided wingers have been as fruitful and productive as Mahrez in the Premier League over the last three years or so.

It is, therefore, clear why City ought to be looking to tie the Algerian star down to a new contract sooner rather than later, with his current deal poised to expire in the summer of 2023. By that time, Mahrez will have turned 32 and be two steps closer towards the end of his career.

Nevertheless, if his recent consistency levels are anything to go by, City will have no qualms about him losing his killer-touch inside the final third anytime soon.

Of course, City are anything but a one-man-band, with quality and swagger available to Guardiola in every department of his squad, but Mahrez has been a vital part of what they have achieved in recent years, with, again, his consistency being the secret ingredient.

City’s form, you would think, is unlikely to dip because of his absence, but they are bound to feel the impact of him being unavailable. That is unavoidable.

If anything, the timing of the AFCON – and Algeria’s title defence – could only force City to intensify contract discussions with the 30-year-old and tie him down to a new deal.

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