Belfast Telegraph

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers: Wanted man Riyad Mahrez has no need to join Arsenal

By Samuel Stevens

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has backed Riyad Mahrez to reject Arsenal after witnessing the Algerian's talents first-hand during a friendly defeat on penalties to Leicester City on Saturday.

Mahrez scored a sumptuous strike to give Leicester the lead just after half-time in the International Champions Cup clash at Celtic Park before Eoghan O'Connell's 58th-minute equaliser took the tie to penalties.

Daniel Amartey scored the decisive spot-kick for the English champions following James Forrest's earlier miss, from the hosts' sixth penalty, but reports linking Mahrez with a £40m switch to the Emirates overshadowed proceedings in Glasgow.

"He looks happy," Ulsterman Rodgers said at full-time. "If he is playing well and working well, I wouldn't say there is a need for him to move."

The former Liverpool manager also confirmed defender Kolo Toure's arrival at Celtic after being let go by the Anfield club but he will not feature in the Champions League qualifier against Kazakhstani outfit Astana on Wednesday.

Rodgers said: "I brought him into Liverpool to add that bit of experience and help to the centre-halves and I think you've seen that from his impact there.

"In particular last season, he was a very important player for Jurgen (Klopp) towards the end of the season and played in the Europa League final. He was outstanding in the big games when I was there."

Asked if a new player could be signed in time for the trip to Astana, Rodgers added: "We need to wait and see.

"We have some work going on behind the scenes, hopefully we can get some business done. It is going to be tight, it is Saturday evening and we leave on Monday afternoon."

Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, reiterated his insistence that Mahrez would not be sold whatever the price after losing midfielder N'Golo Kante to Premier League rivals Chelsea for £30m a week ago - despite speculation in France that Mahrez had been "seduced" by Arsenal, who are reported to be closing in on a £41.8m deal for the 25-year-old.

Ranieri said: "It is good because you can continue to write, write, write. It is good for you but not for us. Did you see Riyad, how happy he is? He played well and worked so hard for the team and scored a good goal. He stays with us. Of course.

"For us it is very important because he is one of our stars. He is our fantasy."

Mahrez will join his Leicester team-mates for the trip to Los Angeles where they will face Paris Saint-Germain this weekend before flying to Stockholm to take on Spanish champions Barcelona the following Wednesday.

Despite Mahrez continuing to put himself in the shop window with displays such as the one at Celtic, Ranieri is relaxed about his chances of keeping hold of the PFA Player of the Year.

"With another team there are many more stars and maybe he doesn't play at the same level. Maybe he goes on the bench. It is much better that he stays here with me and another year is important for him," added the Italian.

"Maybe now (his value is £40m) and maybe tomorrow another newspaper says £100m. Keep going! Mahrez is okay with us. He understands that someone loves to create some speculation but it is only speculation."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph