Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez
, the 2016 Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, signed a new four-year contract, ending talk that the Algerian star will be lured away by one
of the giant English clubs after helping the Foxes win their improbable English Premier League title last season.
Mahrez's deal comes six months after Jamie Vardy
, who won the
other major English player award as the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year award, also signed a four-year deal. Mahrez will reportedly earn slightly less than the $6.8 million annual
salary Vardy received.
Mahrez was discovered playing in the French second division at Le Havre and joined Leicester City for the second half of the 2013-14 season when it was in the
League Championship. The Foxes narrowly avoid relegation in their first season back in the Premier League and with 5,000-1 odds were written off at the start of 2015-16.
Mahrez scored 17
Premier League goals and recorded 11 assists, giving Leicester City the class in midfield that separated it from just another EPL also-run and allowed it compete -- and beat -- the giants of the
After the season ended with rumors swirling about a possible transfer, Mahrez's agent Kamel Bengougam
said it was only “50-50” that he'd stay. Mahrez insisted he
was happy at Leicester and could only be swayed to leave in exceptional circumstances.
"[The Premier League] is a super league and I would like to stay here as long as possible," he told
France Football. "Now, there are two or three clubs in the world, that if they come for me, it definitely makes you think, if you understand what I am trying to say."
The suitor most
often mentioned was Arsenal -- which Leicester faces in its home opener on Saturday. The key to convincing Mahrez to stay was Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri
, who is close to the
Algerian and has built his team around him.
Whether Mahrez, who is only 25, stays for all four years of his contract remains to seen. Increased television revenues and Champions League
participation fees give Leicester City the resources to afford Mahrez and Vardy and the other players who got new contracts, Jamaican captain Wes Morgan
, keeper Kasper Schmeichel
The one player who got away was French midfielder N'Golo Kante, signed by Chelsea for a $38 million transfer fee that helped underwrite the club record signings of Nampalys Mendy and
But Pundits have been convinced that Leicester City's 2015-16 season was a one-off and pounced after its 2-1 loss at Hull City on opening day. The result supported the
view that Mahrez won't reproduce his form of a season ago and the Foxes' defense can't hold up like it did. That all remains to be seen, but Kante's absence in midfield was something concrete critics
could point to as lacking in the 2016-17 Foxes.
Ranieri, who is counting on Mendy growing into the role of Danny Drinkwater's partner in central midfield, wants to move on for the
title campaign and Kante's (significant) role in it.
"Everyone is thinking Kante," Ranieri after the loss at Hull. "It doesn't exist. It is finished. Kante is out."