William Saliba signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2019 but is yet to make a single Premier League appearance for the Gunners, despite becoming a senior France international
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William Saliba has been named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season.
It caps off a glittering campaign for the 21-year-old, who was shipped out on loan by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta last summer. He’s played 52 games for Marseille at the heart of their defence and won his first two senior caps for France.
Saliba scooped the prestigious award by beating off competition from Nice’s Khephren Thuram, Lens’ Arnaud Kalimuendo, Paris Saint-Germain’s Nuno Mendes and Lyon’s Castello Lukeba. Previous winners include Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrice Evra, Frank Ribery, Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe – who won it three years in-a-row.
Arsenal fans will be hoping Saliba finally represents the club next season. The centre-back hasn’t played a single minute for the first team since arriving from Saint-Etienne three years ago for a reported £27million, making just two EFL Trophy outings for the U23s.
During that time, Saliba has completed loan spells at Saint-Etienne, Nice and now Marseille. Yet his most recent stint in France is his most impressive to date. Marseille manager Jorge Sampaoli has already confirmed the club’s desire to re-sign him this summer.
“In relation to his situation at the club, I hope that there is a possibility for us to retain a player like him, who knows the team,” said Sampaoli. “But I don’t know if it depends on OM, William, or Arsenal, I don’t know the possibilities in this case.”
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Saliba is expected to be part of Arteta’s plans next season and Arsenal have congratulated him on becoming Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year. According to football.london, the Gunners will open contact talks with him shortly. His existing deal expires in June 2024.
Speaking earlier this month, however, the defender described Marseille as “his club” and admitted his interest in a return. “My wish is to finish the season well, to leave on a good note in case I don’t come back,” said Saliba. “It would be my pleasure to come back no matter what, it’s not as if I know I’m not going to come back, it’s Marseille, it’s my club.”
Speaking after Saliba made his debut for France in March, Arteta said: “We are really aware of what he’s doing, how he’s developing. He’s our player and we are really happy with the decision that we made because the exposure, minutes, responsibility and growth at his age is something we could not guarantee him this season.”
Saliba, meanwhile, told L’Equipe in March: “They [Arsenal] are often in contact with my agent. They send me messages. They watch my matches. They tell me to continue like this. I haven’t played much with the Gunners. The coach [Arteta] made his choices, that’s life.
“I left on loan, I played matches and, thanks to my performances, I became an international. What happened to me helped forge a mental toughness. You don’t play just because you cost €30m. I take it positively. Even if there are times when you ask yourself questions.
“For six months, I saw that I was the the only one in the group not to play, it hurt. I’m sure I can’t just be on the bench at Arsenal and be happy. I want to play as a starter. Afterwards, if I come into the rotation as a substitute, it’s not like staying with the Under-23s and never being in the squad.”