William Saliba has admitted he is uncertain over his long-term future with Arsenal after revealing his happiness at playing on loan at Marseille.
The French defender arrived in a £27million deal from Saint-Etienne back in 2019 but is yet to make a senior appearance for the club. He was signed by former boss Unai Emery, before arriving back at London Colney to find his new manager Mikel Arteta in charge.
Saliba still has two-and-a-half years remaining on his existing deal at the Emirates Stadium and is reportedly set to be offered a new contract. If he were to leave this summer, the Gunners are likely to demand a figure somewhere close to the figure they paid for him nearly three years ago.
Instead, he spent time on loan with his first club as part of the deal to sign him, before opting to return to France again with Nice and Marseille. He has impressed during his time with the Liege 1 outfit, appearing in all but one of their 29 league matches this season.
The youngster, who turns 21 today, celebrated an early birthday present after receiving a call-up to the France senior national team for the first time. And while this progress has not gone unnoticed by Arsenal fans, Saliba has cast doubt over whether he will be returning to north London when his loan spell concludes at the end of the season.
"I’ve never hidden the fact that I feel good here. I don’t know what my future holds, there’s still two months to go," Saliba told RMC Sport. "The most important thing is to qualify for the Champions League and go as far as possible in the Conference League.
"I think discussions will take place afterwards, at the end of May to early June, between Arsenal and Marseille – we’ll decide at that point. But staying on here would definitely not be a bad idea, on the contrary, I know the city, my team-mates, my manager. But it doesn’t depend on me."
There is a chance Saliba could make his debut for France later this month when Les Bleus face Ivory Coast on Friday and South Africa on March 29. If he were to make an appearance, it would enable Arsenal to command a higher fee for his services.
One of the Arteta's first major calls was to demand that Saliba gain more first-team experience elsewhere after he was deemed not ready for Premier League action. Yet, after returning to the club during the 2019-20 following the cancellation of the Ligue 1 campaign, Saliba was hardly given an opportunity to impress the Arsenal boss.
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The 39-year-old coach has been candid in his assessment of Saliba’s time at the club, admitting there has been a lack of understanding from the outside of the club's plans. But he refused to rule out using him in the future after assembling a squad filled with promising young players.
"I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan," said Arteta earlier this month, insisting Saliba is part of his future plans. "But a lot of things have happened to him.
"He’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough. He’s very happy to go there now. Hopefully, he can enjoy his football and be ready for us for next season."
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