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Ranieri confident Mahrez will stay with Foxes for Champions League tilt

By Adam McKendry

Published 13/08/2016

Transfer target: Leicester star Riyad Mahrez has been on Arsenal’s radarin
Transfer target: Leicester star Riyad Mahrez has been on Arsenal’s radarin

Ahead of Leicester City starting their Premier League title defence at Hull today, manager Claudio Ranieri has grown increasingly impatient over questions on the future of Riyad Mahrez.

Ranieri was visibly agitated at a pre-match news conference when asked if he has talked to Mahrez about a possible transfer.

"Tell me if there is one (offer of interest). Riyad will stay with us," the Foxes boss said yesterday.

"I say (to Mahrez) to keep going, to improve. The Champions League is different, European football is totally different to the Premier League and that it is important to be focused."

With the exception of N'Golo Kante's sale to Chelsea, Leicester have kept the bulk of last season's squad together, while adding the dynamic Ahmed Musa and Bartosz Kapustka.

After contributing 17 goals and 10 assists in Leicester's run to the title, last season's PFA Player of the Year has received interest from Arsenal, but Ranieri still found room to joke in denying the rumours.

"Never has Riyad come to me and said, 'Coach, I want to go,'" Ranieri said.

"Maybe the reason for that is I would kill him. I would throttle him. He's a lucky man!"

He added: "It's not a problem having all this speculation about Riyad. It's a process you go through when you are playing well.

"When there is all this attention around you, it is because you are doing well.

"He actually needs to feel that there are other teams and other managers who want him."

Meanwhile, Aitor Karanka has warned people not to expect Middlesbrough to 'do a Leicester' as he focuses solely on Premier League survival.

The promoted Teessiders open their Premier League campaign at home to Stoke today having finally secured their return to the top flight after a seven-year wait.

The former Real Madrid defender, when asked if his sights would amount to anything more than simple survival, said: "No, no. We can't make the mistake to think we are Leicester because Leicester won (the title) last season. That doesn't happen often.

"The main aim for us is to stay in the Premier League, to build the conditions to be here a long time because we have been working. It's been really, really tough for the last two and a half years.

"The club has been working for the last seven years, so we need to keep our heads down, we need to know who we are and just focus on the following game."

Karanka has made wholesale changes this summer.

Among the arrivals are much-decorated former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes and striker Alvaro Negredo, who numbers Sevilla, Manchester City and Valencia among his former employers. Valdes is one of four senior keepers on the books - Brad Guzan, Dimi Konstantopoulos and Tomas Mejias are the others - and Karanka was not revealing which of them would get the nod.

However, his 34-year-old compatriot Valdes has a wealth of experience and the winning mentality Boro will need.

Karanka said: "He doesn't like to lose a game in a training session. They are the kind of characters I wanted to bring here.

"Victor is a winner - I don't need to check his CV."

Belfast Telegraph

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