Riyad Mahrez reveals why he left Man City to join Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli – but insists he has ‘unfinished business’ in the Champions League after sitting on Pep Guardiola’s bench in the final

Riyad Mahrez has lifted the lid on his £30million move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli, revealing it was his decision to leave Manchester City after winning the Treble.

The Algerian winger, who racked up a rich portfolio of trophies at the Etihad, bowed out in style by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League last season before agreeing to join the Saudi giants in the summer. 

Despite adding a first Champions League medal to the collection last campaign, Mahrez was not picked by Pep Guardiola to start against Real Madrid in the last four or Inter Milan in the final.

The former Leicester City title winner was not even selected off the bench during June’s showpiece final in Istanbul. 

While opening up on his City exit, Mahrez admitted he was deeply disappointed to miss out on the crucial matches but urged it was not the reason why he left the Etihad in July.

Former Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez has opened up on his Etihad exit last summer

The 32-year-old winger (left) signed for Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ahli as part of a £30m move

The 32-year-old winger (left) signed for Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ahli as part of a £30m move

Pep Guardiola and Mahrez have an animated conversation as the Algerian prepares to sit on the bench during Manchester City's Champions League final against Inter Milan in June

Pep Guardiola and Mahrez have an animated conversation as the Algerian prepares to sit on the bench during Manchester City’s Champions League final against Inter Milan in June

‘I had two years left on my contract with Manchester City, I could have stayed,’ Mahrez told French newspaper L’Equipe this week.

‘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.’

Now the main man for Al-Ahli, alongside fellow Premier League stars Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy and Allan Saint-Maximin, the 32-year-old star chose to begin a new chapter away from the spotlight of European football.

Therefore, Mahrez penned his £43m-a-year deal knowing that he would no longer be able to star in the Champions League.

‘To be honest, I still have a taste of unfinished business,’ Mahrez admitted. ‘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.’ 

Although a starting spot wasn't always guaranteed, the Algerian was a key part of City's attack

Although a starting spot wasn’t always guaranteed, the Algerian was a key part of City’s attack

Mahrez, pictured with Aymeric Laporte (left) who also moved to Saudi Arabia to join Al-Nassr this summer, won a hatful of trophies at the Etihad and bowed out after winning the Treble

Mahrez, pictured with Aymeric Laporte (left) who also moved to Saudi Arabia to join Al-Nassr this summer, won a hatful of trophies at the Etihad and bowed out after winning the Treble

Mahrez's Al-Ahli sit third in the Saudi Pro League behind Al-Nassr and division leaders Al-Hilal

Mahrez’s Al-Ahli sit third in the Saudi Pro League behind Al-Nassr and division leaders Al-Hilal

According to Mahrez, Manchester City’s chiefs tried to tempt to stay another year, with experienced players Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo heading for the exit door.

‘Txiki Begiristain (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.

‘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.’

Roberto Firmino called time on his Liverpool career to start anew with Al-Ahli last summer

Edouard Mendy also left Chelsea to complete his move to Al-Ahli before Mahrez signed in July

He joined both Roberto Firmino (left) and Edouard Mendy (right) at the ambitious Saudi outfit

Mahrez (left) won the Premier League with Leicester before joining Manchester City in 2018

Mahrez (left) won the Premier League with Leicester before joining Manchester City in 2018

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