Riyad Mahrez claims Leicester’s reluctance to sell him to Arsenal in 2016 means he has “lost two years” of his career, with the Algerian forced to wait on Manchester City to do a deal.
The highly-rated winger had wanted to head for the exits at the King Power Stadium on the back of an unlikely title triumph.
His efforts had earned him the PFA Player of the Year award and admiring glances from leading sides across Europe.
Arsenal were among those to make a move, but Leicester refused to sanction the sale of a prized asset and made it clear to Mahrez that he would be going nowhere.
That stance was finally relaxed when City paid £60 million ($77m) in the summer of 2018, but a couple of seasons competing at the very highest level had already passed an ambitious performer by.
Mahrez 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.
"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 got his step up the ladder when joining City, and is now a two-time Premier League champion, but has found regular starts hard to come by with the Blues.
He has no complaints about that, with the 28-year-old happy to be working with one of the best coaches in the business in Pep Guardiola.
“He is a winner, he is there to make us progress,” added Mahrez.
“Guardiola, he'll explain everything to us, decrypt everything, from A to Z, with the aim of determining the match. He is focused on every game.”
City’s latest outing did not go to plan, with Guardiola’s side suffering a 3-1 defeat away at Liverpool to leave them nine points adrift of the Reds in the battle for domestic supremacy in 2019-20.
By Chris Burton
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