Arsenal are set to sign French centre back William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for £27 million on a five-year contract, sources have confirmed to ESPN.
However, the London club will loan the 18-year-old back to Saint-Etienne next season so he can continue to learn his trade in the French top flight. Arsenal have beaten other clubs like AS Roma or Borussia Dortmund for the signing of the promising defender who had penned a new deal with Les Verts last April.
Saliba’s rise to the top has been exceptional. For his first season as a professional last year, he was one of Saint-Etienne’s best players. He made his first team debut in Ligue 1 last September against Toulouse. In his last 10 appearances in Ligue 1, his team kept eight clean sheets, and he played 19 times in all competitions and impressed with his maturity and his talent. Measuring at 6 foot 3 inches (1.93 metres), the athletic centre back has been rated with great pace and technical ability.
He was born in Bondy, like Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, and was coached by Mbappe’s dad while playing at local club AS Bondy.
Since joining the Saint-Etienne academy in 2016, he has represented France in every age group and was part of the squad at the U20 European championships this summer.
With Saliba not expected at the Emirates this season, sources have told ESPN that Arsenal manager Unai Emery wants another centre back this summer to strengthen his defence.