Exclusive: “A lot of interest” in Arsenal star who’s lived up to the hype

There remains a lot of interest in Arsenal centre-back William Saliba after his outstanding form this season, according to CaughtOffside columnist Jonathan Johnson.

Saliba has long been rated very highly, but really stepped up a level with his performances on loan at Marseille last season, which proved key to him returning to the Emirates Stadium and becoming an automatic starter for the Gunners.

The France international was wanted by a number of top sides before Arsenal initially signed him, and Johnson says there is still a great deal of admiration for him around Europe after his form this term.

“A lot of clubs wanted him before he went to Arsenal as well. Clubs are well aware of the talent coming through at Saint-Etienne, like Wesley Fofana, who’s now at Chelsea, and previously Kurt Zouma a few years before that,” Johnson explained.

arsenal bukayo saka and william saliba
William Saliba has been a hugely important player for Arsenal

There were a handful of top European clubs who were interested in him at that time, PSG were one of those, but Arsenal ended up winning that race for his signature. To this day he still attracts a lot of interest from across Europe because he’s an elite defensive talent.”

Arsenal fans won’t be too pleased to hear that, but at the same time there is surely an exciting enough project happening under Mikel Arteta to persuade the 22-year-old to stay in north London for the long term.

Saliba’s injury has been a real blow to AFC towards the end of this season and Johnson admits they really need him back as soon as possible.

“They’re facing a key run of games now and they look like they need him back, though of course rushing him to return to the team has its own risks in terms of long-term damage, so they’ll need to manage this situation carefully,” Johnson said.

“If they can get him back, he’ll be a very important player towards the end of this season and next season as well when they’re most likely back in the Champions League. They’ll also no doubt be working hard to tie him down to a new contract soon to ensure he’s one of the cornerstones of this team for many years to come.”

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