Arsenal have reportedly agreed personal terms with AS Saint-Etienne’s teenage defender William Saliba over a summer transfer.
According to a report from French publication L’Equipe, Arsenal have reached an agreement with French wonderkid over a five-year contract and are in negotiations with his club AS Saint-Etienne to complete the transfer.
Saliba broke into the Saint-Etienne senior team this past season and went on to make 19 appearances in all competitions. The 18-year-old showed maturity beyond his age in his debut campaign, while also impressing with his physical presence and strength. Having made a solid impression in his breakthrough season, Saliba has attracted serious interest from Arsenal.
Arsenal’s first season under Unai Emery was blighted by defensive issues that has been the norm at the Emirates for a number of years now. The Gunners’ shipped in as many as 51 goals in the Premier League and the former PSG boss is keen on addressing the issues at the back ahead of next season.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos had a decent enough first season in England and Laurent Koscielny performed well when fit and available. However, both are into their thirties, as is Nacho Monreal, while Shkodran Mustafi endured another forgettable season. And amid reports that Koscielny is subject of interest from Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal need a new centre-back in the summer.
To that end, Arsenal have identified Saliba as someone who could help tighten things up at the back. The Gunners have extensively scouted the 18-year-old and have been left mightily impressed by his displays. And they have taken major steps towards securing his signing, having agreed terms on a five-year deal with the teenager as per the report.
There had been interest in the youngster from Arsenal’s arch-rivals Manchester United as well, but the Londoners have their nose ahead in the race, with reports claiming that they have already opened negotiations with Saint-Etienne over a transfer.
The Ligue 1 side are demanding a transfer fee of €30 million for Saliba, and have also stipulated that he be allowed to return to the club on loan for the 2019-20 campaign. That could prove to be a bone of contention in the negotiations, with Arsenal unlikely to agree to such a condition, given that they will be splashing out a major chunk of their limited transfer budget to sign him.
Adding someone as young as Saliba might not bear immediate rewards for Arsenal, but the 18-year-old has shown great potential in his debut campaign and could go onto become a mainstay for the club for years to come. The news that they have reached an agreement with the centre-back bodes well for the Gunners, but it remains to be seen if they will strike a deal with his club.