Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez has claimed he was close to completing a deal to join Arsenal back in 2016, but former club Leicester City prevented the move.
The 28-year-old wanted to leave after winning the Premier League title with the Foxes in the 2015/16 season, but the club prevented his departure until 2018, when Manchester City paid £61m for the Algeria international.
“After the title, if I’d left for a top team, it wouldn’t have been the same story,” he said in an interview with France Football, as quoted by Sport Witness. “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.”
After a tough debut season at City trying to break into the side, Mahrez now alternates with Bernardo Silva on the right-hand side under Pep Guardiola.
He ended up scoring the goal which sealed the title for City last year, while he also won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
However, they face a real battle to retain the Premier League, after their 3-1 defeat at league leaders Liverpool left them nine points off the top.