Leicester must not sell Riyad Mahrez
Algerian's departure would make the champions one-season wonders, like Blackburn
Riyad Mahrez needed six seconds to underline his priceless value.
The ball found him in too much space on the right. Five touches took him into the box. A double step-over left a marker skidding in his slipstream.
Another pair of touches carved out the opening, allowing him to thread the needle, curling a strike into the top corner.
Eight touches, six seconds and a peach of a goal showed why Leicester City finished top of the tree last season.
If the Foxes sell Mahrez, they would be committing self-harm, ending their title defence before it began.
N'Golo Kante's departure had an air of inevitability, the unassuming automaton unable to resist the allure of playing for Antonio Conte, a kindred spirit of kinetic energy.
But Mahrez and Leicester stand at a crossroads, with each party revving through the gears, hopeful of a green light but unsure whether to stay or go.
The Algerian's sumptuous goal was all that mattered in the otherwise meaningless 1-1 draw with Celtic in the International Champions Cup tie yesterday morning (Singapore time.)
Statisticians will record that the Foxes prevailed 6-5 on penalties, but Claudio Ranieri is not prepared to accept that Leicester should pay a penalty for gluttony.
With a smile and a wink, the Italian encouraged journalists to raise Mahrez's reported transfer fee further in their post-match reports.
Eighty million pounds, £90m, £100m - set the asking price higher and add to the absurdity and create a chasm between cost price and value for money.
Throughout last season, Ranieri proved he was as crazy as a fox, deflecting attention away from his team by playing the adorable, slightly confused Italian uncle.
He's at it again. Making up funny numbers and urging reporters to make up their own transfer fees for Mahrez.
But he can't be clowning behind closed doors.
Even allowing for Leicester's rustiness - this was only their second game of pre-season - Mahrez was a dazzling, creative force in a side light on invention.
Celtic were slightly fitter than their English opponents for obvious reasons - they face a Champions League qualifier on Wednesday - and Brendan Rodgers' men were never overwhelmed.
The English Premier League champions stuck with their trusty 4-4-2, but lacked the counter-attacking thrust and urgency that allowed the antiquated system to prevail against superior opponents last season.
Jamie Vardy's absence was obvious. For the most part, Leicester were a livery stable filled with reliable workhorses, but clearly missing their galloping thoroughbred.
Without Vardy and Kante, the Foxes risk tiptoeing towards old perceptions of Leicester, a provincial club of honest triers and tenacious toilers.
All that stands between the Foxes and the one-season wonders of Blackburn Rovers is Mahrez.
He roamed where he pleased against Celtic.
Eoghan O'Connell did his utmost to track the 25-year-old. Occasionally, he even got close, rather like a kid chasing a runaway balloon.
In the 46th minute, Mahrez was left unmarked on the right flank.
Six seconds later, he punished Celtic for their negligence.
Ranieri insisted the goal and Mahrez's performance represented a settled, happy player ready to lead Leicester as they take their first, historic steps into the Champions League.
For everyone else watching on TV, the screen looked like a shop window - and the Algerian had passed another audition for interested parties.
And Arsenal are interested. Of course they are.
Arsene Wenger hasn't bought a diminutive, incisive wide man with a fast football brain since he bought the last three footballers who did pretty much the same thing.
The Gunners needed Kante's calf-crushing qualities more than another creative virtuoso, but that probably won't stop Wenger from trying.
At 25, Mahrez is four years younger than fellow maverick Dimitri Payet and offers a more attractive proposition to the vultures circling the King Power Stadium.
Wenger already has strength in depth.
The plodding draw against Celtic proved that Ranieri doesn't.
Last season, he was blessed with a largely injury-free run to the title, which benefited enormously from a lack of cup distractions and the absence of expectation until the very end.
Now he'll have both. But he won't have Kante.
The Frenchman's departure was the result of an offer the ambitious midfielder couldn't refuse. Mahrez's exit, on the other hand, would feel like an exodus.
Ranieri knows his midfielder's value cannot be measured in pounds and pence.
A transfer leaves a gaping, creative hole the manager cannot possibly fill.
The Italian joked about a £100-million price tag.
To Leicester, Mahrez is worth so much more.
TNP GRAPHIC: TEOH YI CHIE
Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez picks up the ball on the right flank before driving at the Celtic defence. He evades the attentions of defenders Eoghan O'Connell and Emilio Izaguirre before curling the ball into the top left corner of Craig Gordon's goal.
Winger Riyad Mahrez scored 17 goals and assisted 10 more for Premier League champions Leicester City last season. He was involved in 27 of the Foxes’ 68 league goals.