Manchester City are reportedly closing in on Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez as their first signing of the summer transfer window after the Foxes were said to have dropped their price on the player.
Mahrez was linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium in January, but the Leicester board reportedly have agreed lowering his cost may be the best route to a swift sale, per Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News.
According to the report, the Foxes wanted £95 million for their winger in the winter, while the Citizens refused to go above £60 million. Now, it's believed the price of a move will be £50 million plus a City player, with Patrick Roberts mentioned as possibly moving in the opposite direction.
The Guardian's Jamie Jackson backed up reports City boss Pep Guardiola was again interested in Mahrez—who handed in a transfer request in January and went AWOL for two weeks—and talks between the two clubs have already taken place.
The Algeria international has been linked with an exit from the King Power Stadium ever since the miraculous Premier League title win of 2015-16. The temptation then was to think Mahrez was a flash-in-the-pan talent, but he and others in the Foxes squad have proved otherwise, per Sky Sports Statto:
Rob Tanner of the Leicester Mercury reported agents' fees are also holding up negotiations; Mahrez changed representation to Kia Joorabchian after he missed out on his move in January.
Despite his two-week absence from the squad this past winter and the distractions that come with transfer gossip, Mahrez still managed to maintain form and finished the league season with 12 goals and 11 assists.
Leicester could fight to keep their talisman but run the risk of being forced to sell late with no replacement, and WhoScored.com highlighted Mahrez as a presence who would need an adequate successor:
Best assist-to-goalscorer combinations in Europe's top 5 leagues this season Premier League - Mahrez to Vardy (7 goals) La Liga - Suarez to Messi (7 goals) Serie A - Perisic to Icardi (7 goals) Bundesliga - Müller to Lewandowski (7 goals) Ligue 1 - Neymar to Cavani (7 goals) https://t.co/ZYICWcvemg
Guardiola has a dilemma in fitting the right-sided player into his ranks given Raheem Sterling was so effective off that flank for much of this season, and Bernardo Silva was another capable option there.
That pair combined cost City a little shy of £100 million, but it appears Guardiola is ready to invest in Mahrez as a potential upgrade.
Leicester would be landing an extremely promising recruit in return if Roberts moved as a makeweight, and Sky Sports News' Rob Dorsett commented during the winter on the value he would bring to the deal:
Roberts has spent the past two-and-a-half years on loan at Celtic but may be shipped out of the Etihad once again before he's had a chance to return and could play a part in one of the Premier League's biggest moves of the summer.