Arsenal defender William Saliba has impressed on loan at Marseille and guided the club to second place in Ligue 1, securing a place in next season’s Champions League. The 21-year-old’s performances garnered critical acclaim, winning the league’s Young Player of the Season award.
However, after that period, the centre-back is now set to return to the Emirates with his role in the squad uncertain. As a result, the youngster has been linked with a move away from the club, with his current contract having just two years left.
In this sense, football.london takes a look at the latest intel on the transfer saga as rumors of a potential defender move surface.
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Claim by Mikel Arteta
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has claimed that following his spell at Marseille, Saliba “must” return to the club next season. Speaking to RMC Sport, he said: “He has to come back. He has the experience and the necessary environment to be competitive with us. If he had stayed with us this year, with a Premier League game a week and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.
“In terms of his growth and what he could do next year, it wouldn’t have been good. William wasn’t there because he wouldn’t have had the playing time needed to gain experience. That’s it, nothing else.”
Marseille club president Pablo Longoria is planning talks with Arsenal over a potential move for the French defender. Speaking to RMC Sport, he was also very happy with the Gunners as a club.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations to analyze William Saliba’s season, especially in the last few days,” he said. “He has had an exceptional season with one of the highest number of games played in Europe.
“He also joined the French team, which is incredible at his age. We’ve had a lot of internal discussion about what we can do to find out what the possibilities are. We respect his club, we have to thank Arsenal.
“It’s a friendly club that helped us a lot in the last transfer window. We have very good relationships. We have to talk to each other, see if there’s a possibility of reaching an agreement between the clubs, there’s the will of the player, the will of the club… But above all, we have to respect Arsenal.”
Recording by William Saliba
The defender himself has opened up about the potential of a move this summer, saying of Metro earlier this month: “I want to come back and play in the Champions League. I’ve never played in it and I want to discover it here.”
According to journalist Mohamed Toubache-ter, Saliba wants to stay in Marseille via GFFN, with both clubs aware of the decision. Still, Les Olympiens will have yet to make an offer that suits Arsenal, especially with reported interest from other clubs.