Why did Riyad Mahrez leave Man City for the Saudi Pro League?

recently divulged the reasons behind his departure from Manchester City to join the Saudi Pro League while still harboring aspirations in the Champions League. The Algerian winger was part of the notable migration of top European talents to the Middle East in the summer of 2023, sealing a £30 million ($37m) move to Al-Ahli following Manchester City’s triumphant Treble season.

Despite being a crucial part of City’s success, including winning the Champions League, Mahrez found himself benched in the final against Inter. Pep Guardiola expressed his desire for Mahrez to stay at the Etihad Stadium, yet the 32-year-old forward made the personal decision to pursue a new chapter in his career. Speaking to L’Equipe, Mahrez explained, “I had two years left on my contract with Manchester City, I could have stayed. It was really me who decided to leave. I felt that this opportunity would not come again.”

Acknowledging the encouragement from City’s technical director Txiki Begiristain and Guardiola to remain, Mahrez weighed his options before opting to depart. Despite some regrets about his European tenure’s ending, he affirmed his contentment with his choice, emphasizing his happiness with his current circumstances in Saudi Arabia.

Reflecting on the Saudi Pro League, Mahrez noted its burgeoning potential and investments in attracting top talent. While acknowledging its current level below that of Europe, Mahrez believes it has the potential to climb the ranks and become a globally competitive league.

Mahrez signed a lucrative contract worth £43m ($53m) per year in Saudi Arabia, embracing the opportunity to both secure his family’s future in a Muslim country and engage in a new sporting challenge. Despite some lingering sentiments of unfinished business in the Champions League, Mahrez expressed his excitement for this fresh phase in his career.

Since joining Al-Ahli, Mahrez has made a notable impact, scoring six goals in 14 appearances, contributing to their position at third in the Saudi Pro League standings. As they prepare for their next fixture against Al-Shabab on November 25, Mahrez remains committed to his new team’s cause amidst the ongoing pursuit of success in his new footballing journey.

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