Riyad Mahrez looks likely to miss this weekend’s match against Manchester City, with Leicester’s star player reportedly absent from training since he failed to force through a move to the Premier League leaders.
It would be the third consecutive league game the Algeria winger has missed since Pep Guardiola‘s City failed to get their man on January 31, transfer deadline day.
Despite a second transfer request from the player in eight months, Leicester reportedly held out for a deal worth £80 million ($111 million, 90 million euros), with even City’s cash-rich Abu Dhabi owners unwilling to go beyond £60 million.
The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that Leicester were considering asking the Professional footballers’ Association to mediate in their dispute with the forward if no agreement could be reached.
It said the 26-year-old, who has missed Leicester’s past two matches, against Everton and Swansea, was absent for a fourth successive training session on Tuesday.
It is understood that even if Mahrez reports back for duty, it is unlikely he will feature against Guardiola’s team on Saturday.
Mahrez is unhappy that Leicester were determined to secure such a huge profit on a player they bought for a reported £350,000 from French second-division side Le Havre in 2014 and who played a pivotal role in the club’s rise from the Championship to Premier League champions.
He was crowned players’ player of the year during Leicester’s remarkable title-winning campaign in 2015-16, scoring 17 Premier League goals, and then signed a four-year deal to help lead their Champions League charge.
Adding to Mahrez’s anger is that other heroes of Leicester’s title-winning triumph – N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater – have been allowed to leave the club and join Chelsea with far less resistance.
Jesse Lingard has apologised for a “totally unacceptable” Twitter post that the midfielder claims was sent by his media team during the Munich memorial service – an explanation Manchester United are understood to accept.
Tuesday marked the 60th anniversary of the air disaster that killed 23 people as United’s plane crashed on the way back from a European Cup tie at Red Star Belgrade in 1958.
United stars past and present, along with 4,500 fans, attended a ceremony at Old Trafford to pay their respects, with the ground falling silent at 3.04pm – the time of the devastating crash 60 years earlier.
But at 3.07pm, as the service continued, a reply was sent from Lingard’s official Twitter account to a message about a game of FIFA, leading to an online backlash.
The England midfielder is said to have been angered by the situation and issued a statement blaming a member of his “media team” for the post – an explanation the club are understood to accept given cameras were trained on the players throughout the service.
The offending message has been deleted but the incident raises serious questions over individuals controlling players’ social media channels.
United boss Jose Mourinho is reported to have spoken to Lingard about the incident and reminded him of his responsibilities, while underlining the importance of being careful on social media to the rest of his players.
Lingard’s statement on Tuesday evening read: “A member of my media team inadvertently replied to a tweet this afternoon on my twitter profile during the Munich memorial service at Old Trafford.
“I was unaware as I was attending the service at the time, and don’t condone the post or the timing in anyway.
“The post has now been deleted, and I’d like to apologise for any upset caused, this is totally unacceptable and does not reflect my personality or views on this emotional day.”
Leicester are prepared to take their time reintegrating Riyad Mahrez back into the club.
It is understood the Algeria international missed training on Tuesday after failing to land a deadline day move to Manchester City last month.
The Foxes travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday with Mahrez now expected to miss the game, having sat out the last two matches.
They will hold talks with Mahrez’s representatives but will not rush the former PFA Player of the Year back.
A ‘close friend’ of Mahrez has been quoted saying the winger was depressed after the failed move and it has changed the dynamic of discussions.
Leicester need to be cautious with how they deal with the issue surrounding Mahrez’s health.
Mahrez wanted to leave the King Power Stadium last month, handing in another transfer request following an initial one in the summer.
Leicester stood firm on their valuation though and eventually asked Manchester City for £80million cash.
City’s final offer was £50million plus an unnamed player who they valued at £15million.
Philippe Coutinho’s £142million move to Barcelona from Liverpool and the fact City had just spent £57million on defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao stiffened Leicester’s resolve.
Mahrez also only signed an improved four-year deal in 2016 after helping the Foxes, under Claudio Ranieri, to a shock Premier League title.
He stayed for their Champions League campaign, where they reached the quarter-finals, but now wants to leave.
Mahrez has missed the 2-1 defeat to Everton and last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Swansea.
Boss Claude Puel has remained tight-lipped over the saga and hinted he is happy to prepare for games without the 26-year-old.
He said: “Riyad is not my preoccupation. My preoccupation is about my available players and to keep them in a positive attitude and to continue this good work.
“My only feelings are about my available players and as for Riyad we will see later.”