Premier League • England

William Saliba delivers coy response on Arsenal future after scooping award Mbappe won three times

William Saliba during a France friendly

Arsenal loanee William Saliba admitted he’s uncertain what the future holds after his stellar season at Marseille saw him receive a major award.

The 21-year-old centre-half remains one of the most highly-rated defenders in his native France. He made his senior international debut in 2022 on the back of a hugely impressive loan stint with Marseille.

In fact, his move to Marseille was the third time Saliba has been loaned back into Ligue 1 since joining Arsenal in 2019. Around three years on from his £27m arrival, Saliba is yet to play a single competitive match for the Gunners.

Their loss has been the gain of those he has joined back in France. Indeed, current club Marseille boast the league’s joint-third meanest defence and are on the cusp of securing automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage.

His stellar season recently saw him awarded the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Season award. That prestigious gong went to Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni last year and Kylian Mbappe three years in a row before that.

And speaking after the awards ceremony in Paris, Saliba delivered a coy response on whether he’ll be back in Marseille.

“It’s an honour, a source of pride,” Saliba said on scooping the award (via Goal). “I dedicate this trophy to my team-mates, my club and the supporters.

“Did I play my last match with Marseille? I don’t know. The future will tell us.

“The most important thing is to confirm this good season by qualifying for the Champions League. Afterwards, we’ll see.”

Marseille are believed to be keen on bringing Saliba back on board next year. Manager Jorge Sampaoli recently put the ball in Arsenal’s court when discussing the subject.

Should Saliba stick or twist?

If Marseille do lodge a permanent offer, Saliba and Arsenal will have a difficult decision to make.

Saliba is clearly a highly valued player and has all the hallmarks of becoming a top class defender. The fact he has already won Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year suggests he is developing faster than even the most optimistic might have hoped.

Yet Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White have established a formidable partnership in their first season at the Emirates together. Whether Saliba would be able to puncture that partnership if he were retained at Arsenal, only time would tell.

With Champions League football potentially returning to Arsenal next year, Mikel Arteta will need elite strength in depth across the board. Saliba would provide that at centre-half, though may view himself as more than just a third string given his rapid rise.

His contract at Arsenal does have another two years left to run. That could give the Gunners breathing room to sanction another loan deal and make a final decision on his future 12 months later.

Making the wrong one for such a promising player could be very damaging indeed.