‘I don’t regret it’ - Riyad Mahrez reveals why he chose to complete £30m move away from Man City
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The winger joined the Saudi Arabian side after five years at the Etihad which culminated with him winning the treble. But Mahrez’s impact on the team waned as the 2022/23 season reached its conclusion, and the Algerian played just 11 minutes across the five Champions League games against Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Inter Milan in the final three knockout rounds.
Mahrez also didn’t feature in the FA Cup final and didn’t start in the pivotal Premier League match at home to Arsenal in April, which City won 4-1. The ex-Leicester City man said the lack of football, the opportunity to live in a Muslim country and to contribute to a ‘new project’, all resulted in his decision to leave the Etihad last summer.
“I had two years left on my contract with Manchester City, I could have stayed,” the 32-year-old told L’Equipe.
“It was really me who decided to leave. 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
“To be honest, I still have a taste of unfinished business,” he 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.
“Txiki Begiristain [City’s technical director] 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.”