William Saliba’s Arsenal future appears to be one of the sagas of the summer for the third year in a row. After two summers of drama leading to quite the cult following of Gunners fans surrounding the defender, Saliba might finally be returning to Arsenal. But for how long?
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has already spoken of his intentions for the 20-year-old after his season with Marseille earned him the young player of the year award in the French top tier and a place in the Ligue 1 team of the season.
“He [William Saliba] has to come back, ”Mikel Arteta told RMC Sport. “He has the experience and the necessary environment to be competitive with us. “If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game a week and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the game time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.”
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However, Saliba’s interview prior to Arteta’s claims provided little hope of an Arsenal return. He appeared to suggest his intention was to return to the French side.
Speaking after the win which secured qualification to the European elite competition for Marseille, Saliba said: “I want to come back and play the Champions League. I have never played in it and I want to discover it here. ”
These words will be of concern to Arteta. And now there is further bad news for Arsenal as the French club have been handed a major boost in their hopes of keeping the defender.
According to L’Equipe via GFFN, Marseille have been notified by the Court of Arbitration of Sport that they will be allowed to make transfers this summer. FIFA had handed OM a two-transfer window ban for their signing of Pape Gueye after a discrepancy with Watford. The final court decision will be made in October, therefore, the suspension of the ban continues giving the Ligue 1 club free reign over the summer window.
However, Arsenal were given solace by a further report by L’Equipe. The French outlet claimed the supposed € 30million (£ 25.6m) transfer fee it would take to sign Saliba is beyond Marseille’s reach. To get Saliba back, the Gunners would need to significantly reduce their asking price or allow for another loan to happen which would be wildly unlikely for an agreement to be made.
The Marseille president Pablo Longoria has talked of respecting Arsenal due to the friendly relations between the clubs that has seen Saliba, Matteo Guendouzi and Sead Kolasinac all move from one to the other – the latter pair on permanent deals.
“We have discussed a lot internally to see what we can do, to see what the possibilities are. We respect his club, we have to thank Arsenal, ”he told RMC Sport. “They are a friendly club to us who have helped us a lot in the last transfer window. We have very good relations with Arsenal. We need to speak, see if there is a possibility to find an agreement between the two clubs, the desire of the player, that of the club… but we have to above all respect Arsenal. ”
Arteta’s words are the most telling of all. As mentioned, he expects Saliba to return and seemingly will be counting on him for next season. With Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Saliba as the main core of defenders with Rob Holding, the Spanish coach has a swath of options now. The Arsenal fan base, however, need clarity and a new deal for Saliba would bring that security. Only time will tell how this chapter of Saliba’s Arsenal career will close.