ARSENAL are struggling to convince William Saliba that his future is at the Emirates and could be forced to cash in on the young defender in the summer.
The French Under-21 international has yet to play a single game for the Gunners since he was signed from Saint-Etienne in a £27million deal in the summer of 2019.
But he is currently earning rave reviews on loan at Marseille, where boss Jorge Sampaoli has described him as 'a future great of French football'.
And Saliba is in no rush to return to Arsenal because he feels his talents are not appreciated by manager Mikel Arteta.
Saliba, 20, has still not forgotten how he was prevented from playing in the 2020 French Cup final against PSG.
He had been loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the season but the agreement expired before the final because of the pandemic.
And though Arsenal were happy to extend his stay by a fortnight, they were not prepared to pay the extra £2.25m which Saint-Etienne were demanding if he played against PSG.
Unai Emery, the manager who signed him, had been replaced by Arteta by then and Saliba’s attitude after being recalled for pre-season training did not impress Arsenal’s coaching team.
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And though he was an unused sub for the Community Shield victory over Liverpool and a Carabao Cup tie at Leicester, Arteta was not convinced that he was ready to challenge for regular first-team football.
As a result, he was not registered in Arsenal’s Premier League squad for last season because the club had too many overseas players.
But when they tried to loan him out to a Championship club in January to help him acclimatise to English football and improve his language, Saliba made his displeasure clear.
In the end, he was loaned out to Nice before extending his stay in the Ligue 1 with another loan deal at Marseille.
And in his absence, his No4 shirt has been handed to £50m arrival Ben White, another right-footed central defender blocking Saliba’s Arsenal path.
But unlike his fellow loanee Matteo Guendouzi, Marseille do not have an option to buy Saliba in the summer.
And with another two-and-a-half years of his contract remaining, the club are under no pressure to take a loss on the £27m fee they paid to sign him.
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As things stand, no decision has been taken by Arsenal on the player’s long-term future.
His performances for Marseille are being closely monitored by the club and there is no doubt that he has plenty of potential.
But he has yet to prove that he has the right attitude to fit into Arteta’s philosophy and White’s signing leaves Arsenal well stocked for central defenders.
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