Manchester City have made a shock £50million bid for Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez as they look to bring him in on a deadline day deal.
Manager Pep Guardiola wants cover for the injured Leroy Sane who is out for up to seven weeks with ankle ligament damage and has targeted the fleet-footed Algerian, who has also been wanted by Chelsea and Arsenal.
The Algerian is aware of City interest and wants to go. He is eligible to play in the Champions League, though Leicester do not need to sell. Even £50m may not be enough to persuade them at this stage of the window.
The deal will represent another big transfer involving agent Kia Joorabchian, who negotiated the £145m transfer of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona from Liverpool. Mahrez joined the Joorabchian stable last summer after he failed to get a transfer away from Leicester and was left in limbo.
Mahrez did not train on Tuesday morning along with the rest of the squad, although Leicester declined to comment on speculation he had refused to do so.
City had drawn up a number of options for the summer but have brought forward their plans following the injury to the influential Sane.
The move sees Guardiola continue his January spending spree. The Premier League leaders broke their transfer record on Tuesday by signing defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao and have been linked with Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred.
Part of City’s desire to spend this month comes due to the prospect of tighter transfer restrictions being introduced in the summer.
Under potential UEFA rules, clubs would be penalised if they make losses of over £90million on deals in transfer windows.
City would therefore be keen to bring in Mahrez during this window – but Leicester would be loathed to lose a key player halfway through the Premier League season.
Internally at the club, no price has been placed on the former PFA Player of the Year winner and it may take a bid approaching £100m to cause a consideration.
Sources claim Guardiola might have lodged a tentative inquiry but Leicester’s stance on the Algeria international suggests a transfer before the deadline is improbable.