Riyad Mahrez says his 2016 transfer to Arsenal was "nearly all done" – but Leicester City blocked him from leaving.
The Foxes had just won a first Premier League title against all the odds and so began the top flight's elite picking apart their overachieving team.
N'Golo Kante moved to Chelsea, Jamie Vardy was linked with a move to Arsenal, and Mahrez was seemingly already through the door at the Emirates.
But according to the Algeria international, Leicester put their foot down and prevented him from leaving – a decision Mahrez describes as "frustrating".
Mahrez told France Football: "After the title, if I'd left for a top team, it wouldn't have been the same story.
"For me, it's clear that I lost two years at the highest level. I lost two years! Because instead of arriving at City at 27, I could have been there at 24, 25.
"Leicester blocked me. They told me: 'You're not leaving, you're not leaving'.
"My agent had spoken to [Arsene] Wenger who really wanted me. It was nearly all done with Arsenal in 2016. I was really frustrated.
"It wasn't easy to go from being the best player in the Premier League to being a part of a team fighting against relegation.
"It's not the same job. Everyone is waiting for you around the corner."
Mahrez eventually got a dream move to Manchester City after Pep Guardiola's side splashed out £60million to sign him.
Reminiscing on his first day at City, Mahrez said: "He [Guardiola] was happy first. He said he was very happy to have me here.
"He said we're going to make big things together with the team."
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