Barcelona have reportedly been handed a major boost in their pursuit to sign Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City in the summer.

Spanish publication Don Balon have reported that Riyad Mahrez’s request to leave Leicester City in the summer transfer window has given Barcelona a major boost of the player as the Algerian winger prefers a switch to Camp Nou.

If 2015/16 was a campaign full of unexpected surprises for Leicester City, 2016/17 became a leveller for the shock Premier League champions. The Foxes flirted with relegation for large parts of the campaign before a late flourish saw them finish 12th – an end result that still made theirs the worst title defence in Premier League history.

In particular, Mahrez’s form mirrored that of Leicester’s, as he started the season in underwhelming fashion before showing glimpses of the player who was adjudged the Premier League and PFA’s Player of the Season. The Algerian finished the campaign with just 10 goals and 7 assists in 48 appearances in all competitions.

A step closer to Barcelona? (Photo courtesy - Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

A step closer to Barcelona? (Photo courtesy – Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

However, despite enduring a poor season by the lofty standards that he has set for himself, there is no dearth of interest in Mahrez. In fact, the interest seems to have picked up after the 26-year-old handed a transfer request to Leicester earlier this week.

Barcelona are one of the front-runners in the race to sign Mahrez, with the club prioritising the addition of an attacking player in the summer transfer window. The Catalan giants do have the formidable trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar going from strength to strength every season.

But the club have often struggled to find players who can fill in adeptly in the absence of the trio, with the likes of Paco Alcacer and Arda Turan failing to make much of an impression. The lack of strength in depth was also underpinned as one of the primary reasons for Barcelona’s failure to win La Liga and Champions League this season.

The Blaugranas are, thus, eager to sign a top quality attacking player this summer, thereby turning their attention towards Mahrez. The player prefers a move to Camp Nou as well, as he has gone on record to state that it is his dream to wear the Barcelona shirt one day.

It is important to note that Mahrez is likely to have a squad role at Barcelona unless new boss Ernesto Valverde changes the system to incorporate the Algerian as a regular. So, it will be interesting to see if the player moves to the Catalan club to play a bit part role should the latter not happen.

Meanwhile, the like of Arsenal, PSG and Liverpool have also been heavily linked with Mahrez and it remains to be seen if they launch the offensive to snatch him away from the clutches of Barcelona. The race to sign Mahrez is hotting up, and it is believed that a bid of €40 million could be enough to secure his services.

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