Manchester City could make a deadline-day transfer raid for Leicester playmaker Riyad Mahrez but look certain to have to stump up another club-record fee.
The Algeria international is understood to have been earmarked as a potential late target for the Premier League leaders after the blow of losing Leroy Sane to injury.
Reports have claimed an offer has gone in to Leicester but that the Foxes would have no interest in selling unless a huge sum is on the table.
The 26-year-old would give City manager Pep Guardiola another attacking option as he chases glory in four competitions.
Mahrez submitted a transfer request last summer – which has not been rescinded despite the player’s recent good form – but Leicester stood firm and rejected approaches from Roma.
Mahrez is contracted until 2020 and the Foxes have no intention of selling their prized asset. It is thought it would take a bid in excess of the £75million Liverpool recently paid for Virgil van Dijk – a defender – for them to even consider it.
That would force City to pay more than the £60million they were prepared to spend to bring Alexis Sanchez to the Etihad Stadium from Arsenal last August. Sanchez subsequently joined Manchester United earlier this month after City baulked at the rising costs of a potential deal.
Sky Sports reported Manchester City have proposed a deal worth £55million for Mahrez.
City completed the club-record £57million signing of defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao but seem certain to have to beat that price to land Mahrez.
Guardiola was asked about the prospect of signing Mahrez, who was linked with Liverpool earlier this month, at a lunchtime press conference to preview Wednesday’s Premier League clash with West Brom but was non-committal.
He said: “I have interest in a lot of players, good players.
“We spoke many times with the club to see what is the best with the players we have. Right now we have just three strikers, with Raheem (Sterling), for the next month or month and a half.
“Gabriel (Jesus) is coming back maybe in the next five or six weeks. We don’t have too much and we play every three days. We have to find solutions.”
When asked further if that could mean an approach for Mahrez, Guardiola said: “It’s not the place to talk about it. It’s so difficult. It happened with (Aymeric) Laporte because it was a buy-out clause. When you have to negotiate it’s always so complicated.”
Asked generally about deadline-day signings, before the reports of a firm Mahrez bid, Guardiola said: “I don’t know. I don’t think so but in football everything can happen. I am 95-99 per cent that nothing is going to happen.”
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