Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri insists that PFA Footballer of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, is staying with the club as he attempts to retain the bulk of his Premier League-winning squad.
Following the sale to Chelsea of midfielder, N’Golo Kanté, and the expected departure to Everton of head of recruitment, Steve Walsh, Mahrez is the latest person linked with a move away from the King Power stadium
Asked whether Walsh would join Kanté in leaving, Ranieri said he will first hold talks with the club’s directors.
“I don’t know because I am focused on this match and first I must speak with the sporting director,” he said. “Only Kanté wanted to go – that’s OK. But I understood him, he came from a little team in France and had a fantastic season. I said to him stay with us and have another year with us but he wanted to go.”
Ranieri, though, was adamant that Mahrez, a revelation last season, was happy to stay.
“Everybody here is happy and, yes, he wants to stay. No other players will go away – we will stay together,” said Ranieri. “The football continues without Riyad or without Kanté but Riyad will stay with us for all of the years. It’s important to maintain the group, with the spirit, with the humility – that’s important for me. I think everybody here is happy. It’s finished, the market has finished.”
With Leicester City set to make their Champions League debut in September, Ranieri said the focus was now on preparing his players for the new campaign.
“It’s important now to make a very good pre-season and we have some very good international matches where we can get some good experience,” said Ranieri.
Meanwhile, Walsh, who played an integral role in the recruitment of both Kanté and Mahrez, is close to joining Everton as their director of football under new manager Ronald Koeman.
Walsh works as one of Leicester’s assistant coaches to Ranieri, but is also the club’s head of recruitment. He worked under Ranieri’s predecessor Nigerl Pearson and was instrumental in the signing of Mahrez from Le Havre, Kanté from Caen and bringing England striker Jamie Vardy from Fleetwood Town.