Arsenal are reportedly in advanced talks with Ligue 1 side AS Saint-Etienne for the signing of William Saliba, who is also a target for rivals Manchester United.
According to a report from French outlet Le 10 Sport, Premier League heavyweights Arsenal are set to beat arch rivals Manchester United in the race for the signing of AS Saint-Etienne prodigy William Saliba.
Saliba, 18, broke into the Saint-Etienne first-team in the 2018-19 campaign and went on to make 19 appearances across all competitions, impressing with his defensive nous, physicality and the maturity that belies his age. His breakthrough performances have led to serious interest from a number of clubs, most notably from Manchester United and Arsenal.
Manchester United’s 2018-19 campaign was largely disappointing, with the Red Devils’ defence emerging as a major cause of concern. Apart from Victor Lindelof, none of the other defenders showed any sort of consistency in their game, leading to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeking a new centre-back addition to the squad.
Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt has been strongly linked with a switch to Manchester United recently. But, given that the Dutchman is a wanted commodity among many other clubs including Barcelona and PSG, United are keeping their options open and have been closely monitoring Saliba as well. However, they are set to taste defeat in their pursuit, with Arsenal emerging as front-runners.
After another season where the defence disappointed, Arsenal are in the market for a new centre-half. While Shkodran Mustafi continues on his erroneous ways, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are both 33 years old and Sokratis too is on 31, meaning the Gunners could definitely do with injecting some young blood into their defensive ranks.
This has led Arsenal to the doors of Saint-Etienne, with Saliba seemingly making a huge impression on the North London outfit’s scouting team, so much so that they have already held talks with the Ligue 1 outfit exploring the possibility of a transfer. The report claims that the negotiations between the two parties are in advanced stages and a deal could be hashed out in the coming weeks.
Saliba is likely to cost Arsenal somewhere around the €30 million mark, although Saint-Etienne have stipulated that the 18-year-old be allowed to rejoin the club on loan for the next season.
It remains to be seen if Arsenal are willing to agree to that condition, considering that their need for defensive reinforcements is immediate. Moreover, with the Gunners operating on a tight transfer budget, they might not want to shell out €30 million on a player and allow him to leave on loan.
Saliba, in his first season at the top level, has shown immense promise and potential. Judging by the interest he is generating, a move away from Saint-Etienne could very well be on the cards. But, it will be interesting to see if he does end up joining Arsenal.