Arsenal are one of a host of Premier League clubs reportedly targeting Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba.
Saliba broke into the Saint-Etienne first team in September and at just 18 years of age, is already showing all the hallmarks of a top-class centre-back, keeping 0.49 clean sheets per 90 minutes – more than any St Etienne defender and seventh best among all Ligue 1 defenders.
Who is William Saliba? What you need to know…
- Age: 18
- Position: Centre-back
- Career path so far: Saint-Etienne
- Key stat: Kept seven clean sheets in 16 Ligue 1 appearances last season.
- Did you know? Saliba started his youth career at AS Bondy under the guidance of Wilfried Mbappe, father of Kylian.
Multiple sources in both England and France are linking the France youth international with the likes of Manchester United, Southampton and Manchester City but reports place Arsenal – who are having to make do with a £40m transfer budget this summer – as the frontrunners to make a £25m-move.
Even with such a small reserve of experience, Saliba has plenty of pedigree having learned his trade with AS Bondy in his formative years, the very same club to have produced talents such as Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappe. Saliba was, in fact, coached by the latter’s father, Wilfried.
“Wilfried taught me everything, and if I’m here today, it’s thanks to him,” he explained earlier this season.
“As his dad was my coach, I’d often go to Kylian’s house. When we saw where Kylian got to, it made us want it.”
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Meanwhile, former Arsenal right-back Lauren – who was a part of Arsene Wenger’s invincible side of 2003/04 – has put his own seal of approval on the Gunners’ approach for a player he claims has a ‘bright future’.
“Yes, he looks a very good player,” Lauren said last month. “Strong, tall, can come out of the back with the ball and an international for France.
“He reads the game very well, which is important for a player at the back, you have to anticipate and he looks very good at just 18, so the future is bright!”
Despite his limited budget, Unai Emery must perform extensive surgery on an Arsenal squad which stumbled to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League last season and were humbled 4-1 in their Europa League final against Chelsea.
The Gunners conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season – at least 12 more than the rest of the division’s top five teams – and Saliba may well be a replacement for veteran Laurent Koscielny, who is being linked with a move away from the Emirates.