Claudio Ranieri has no problem benching Leicester star amid transfer speculation

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Claudio Ranieri will have no problem benching Riyad Mahrez if the Leicester City star begins to get carried away by transfer speculation, according to The Daily Mail.

The Foxes are enjoying an historical season, leading the Premier League after 26 matches, gaining 53 points and scoring 48 goals in the process.

While Jamie Vardy has been Leicester’s topscorer with 19 goals, Mahrez has been the team’s best playmaker and catalyst, scoring 14 goals but also providing 10 assists so far.

Not surprisingly, the 25-year-old has courted interest from several European top clubs, like Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent months.

Although Mahrez signed a contract extension until 2019 at the start of the season and a new one to raise his £35,000-a-week wages is in the pipeline, speculation about his future has continues and his coach is keen that he ignores it as much of as possible.

“If Riyad plays as well as Riyad can, he continues to play. But when I see Riyad think about other teams, he comes with me on the bench,” Ranieri said.

“Of course [Champions League qualification] makes it easier to keep him. If I am Riyad I say, ‘There are a lot of teams who want me, OK, I have to show more if I want to go there.’

“We want to keep all our players. We believe in them. But if a player comes to me and says, ‘Boss, I want to go there because it’s my ambition to go there’, I’ll say, ‘Go and enjoy and have good luck’.

“Because I want only players who are happy to stay here.”

Worryingly for Leicester, Mahrez’s form has shown signs of tailing off slightly in recent weeks, having scored just one goal in 11 appearances in 2016.

However, Leicester have been fine and are still leading the chase to win the Premier League crown. The Foxes will host bottom team Norwich City on Saturday, handing them another chance to come closer to the ultimate trophy in English football.

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