Former Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez has admitted to a feeling of ‘unfinished business’ after bringing his time at the Etihad Stadium to an end during the summer.
The 32-year-old brought an end to his illustrious time in English football during the most-recent summer transfer window, accepting an offer from the riches of Saudi Arabia to join Pro League side Al-Ahli in a £30 million deal.
With multiple Premier League titles and domestic cup competitions under his belt, before adding the UEFA Champions League title to his name at the end of last season, the conclusion of Manchester City’s treble-winning campaign felt like the natural end of a cycle for Mahrez.
That feeling of a natural conclusion was further heightened by Mahrez’s lack of involvement in both Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, as well as the final against Inter in Istanbul – an issue that the player himself has this week brought up.
Speaking to French newspaper L’Equipe this week, as translated and relayed by MailSport, Riyad Mahrez opened up on the reasons behind his exit from the Premier League champions in the summer, “I had two years left on my contract with Manchester City, I could have stayed.
“It was really me who decided to leave,” Mahrez continued, “I felt that this opportunity (to join Al-Ahli) would not come again. Maybe it was time to leave because I had spent five years at City and won everything.”
While admitting to being content with the new lifestyle in the middle-east, both from a personal perspective and from the viewpoint of his family, Mahrez has claimed he still has a feeling of ‘unfinished business’ about the way in which his time in European football ended.
“To be honest, I still have a taste of unfinished business,” the Algeria international continued. “In the Champions League, I did not play the semi-final or the final. In previous seasons, I always started in the Champions League while always being impactful for my team.
“This last year, I couldn’t say it went badly, but I have a bit of this feeling of unfinished business. I was offered four years in Saudi Arabia, in a Muslim country where I can definitely protect (and provide for) my family.
“There was also a new challenge, and a new project. So, I decided to leave, it wasn’t a big deal.”
Speculation surrounded the way in which Riyad Mahrez ended his time with Manchester City, with some supporters believing that club officials should have put up more of a fight to retain the iconic Premier League forward.
However, as part of his new interview, Riyad Mahrez has revealed the lengths to which the club did just that, naming sporting director Txiki Begiristain and head coach Pep Guardiola as two names in particular that were keen to retain his talents in sky blue.
“Txiki Begiristain really wanted me to stay, and even Pep Guardiola. They made it clear to me. I weighed the pros and cons. And finally, I decided to leave. I don’t regret it, I’m happy to be here.”
Mahrez continued, “The level of the Saudi league is not bad. It’s going to get better and better. It’s a championship that I’m learning. Here, they have put the resources into recruiting the best players. There’s definitely quality, I think it’s just the beginning.”
“Can we compare it to Europe? I don’t think so yet. But at this rate, in the near future, they can be among the five, six or seven best Championships in the world.”
Manchester City have largely proven to be unaffected by the exit of Riyad Mahrez, scoring goals in abundance this season and enjoying the fresh talents and assets brought to the team by Belgium international Jeremy Doku.
City return to action of their own after the November international break when a hectic Premier League schedule brings fixtures against the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, and Aston Villa to the table for Pep Guardiola and his players.
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