Riyad Mahrez has revealed he nearly signed for Arsenal in 2016 but Leicester blocked his move to the Emirates.
The Foxes had just done the unthinkable and won their first Premier League title against all the odds, and unsurprisingly many of the top performers were attracting attention from the top flight’s elite.
French midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was instrumental in the title victory, joined Chelsea, while Jamie Vardy was strongly linked with a move to Arsenal.
And Mahrez’s move to north London was seemingly a formality before King Power chiefs prevented the deal from materialising.
He told France Football: “After the title, if I’d left for a top team, it wouldn’t have been the same story.
“For me, it’s clear that I lost two years at the highest level. I lost two years! Because instead of arriving at City at 27, I could have been there at 24, 25.
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“Leicester blocked me. They told me: ‘You’re not leaving, you’re not leaving’.
“My agent had spoken to [Arsene] Wenger who really wanted me. It was nearly all done with Arsenal in 2016. I was really frustrated.
“It wasn’t easy to go from being the best player in the Premier League to being a part of a team fighting against relegation.
“It’s not the same job. Everyone is waiting for you around the corner.”
Mahrez eventually sealed a dream move to Manchester City after Pep Guardiola decided to splash out £60m to sign him in 2018.
Recalling his first day at the club, he said: “He [Pep Guardiola] was happy first. He said he was very happy to have me here.
“He said we’re going to make big things together with the team.”