Barcelona will launch a summer bid for Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez.
That's according to John Percy of the Daily Telegraph, who stated that the Premier League champions "are bracing themselves for an official move ahead of the next campaign." The report suggests Leicester will demand around £40 million before agreeing to cash in on their creator-in-chief.
Percy added that Mahrez is aware of the interest from the Catalan giants and has previously expressed his admiration for Barcelona and Lionel Messi in particular.
These numbers from WhoScored.com show just how creative the winger has been over the past couple of Premier League seasons:
Riyad Mahrez: Only Mesut Özil (32) has created more clear-cut goalscoring chances than Mahrez (29) in the Premier League since August 2015 https://t.co/cjX1iVX02d2017-3-23 09:30:01
The Algeria international thrilled for large spells of the 2015-16 campaign, giving Leicester an inventive and incisive edge in the final third that proved to be a catalyst for their Premier League title success. Mahrez's balance, trickery and turn of pace make him so difficult to handle.
This season, like many Leicester players, he's not reached the same high standards. But as Jonathan Northcroft of the Sunday Times noted recently, Mahrez's form has taken a turn for the better as of late:
Jonathan Northcroft @JNorthcroft
Mahrez the last Leicester player to return to form but did so in style tonight. Deliveries. Counters. Even won a back post defensive header2017-3-14 21:31:39
At Barcelona, he would find it difficult to muscle into the front three ahead of Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez. But the chance to move to a juggernaut of a club like the Spanish champions would surely appeal to the 26-year-old.
For the Blaugrana, having another player capable of slotting into the front three would help take some of the burden off the revered MSN trio, something Paco Alcacer has been unable to do since his arrival at the club last summer. Mahrez's versatility and flair make him a prime candidate.
Jordi Alba Latest
According to Toni Frieros of Sport, concerns are growing about Jordi Alba's situation at Barcelona.
"He isn't performing as well as the coach would like, not up to the standard of one of the top left-backs in the world," Frieros noted. "The decline in performance is worrying, especially [for] the staff and [technical director] Robert Fernandez, because Alba is 28 and has a lot to offer still."
It's suggested that Alba is not pleased at being left out of some crucial games recently, with manager Luis Enrique shifting to a 3-4-3 setup. According to Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News, Manchester United and Manchester City are keeping tabs on the player's status.
Sport’s Rik Sharma believes the formation recently utilised by the manager doesn't accommodate natural full-backs:
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
Never was the sharpest knife in the draw but seems pretty evident that 3-4-3 doesn't suit full-backs2017-3-20 14:31:09
Since joining Barca from Valencia in 2012, Alba has been a key figure in the club’s success.
Even so, Alba's performance level hasn't been consistent over the past couple of seasons. While he's still a scintillating player with the ball at his feet, his decision-making in the final third has been erratic, while his defensive positioning has also been poor at times.
According to Frieros, there is a "distance" between Alba and Enrique, who is set to leave the club at the end of the campaign. The Spain left-back will be hoping a new manager will find a place for him in the team again next season so that he can rediscover top gear.