Premier League • England

William Saliba transfer had helping hand from Arsenal great, as Rio Ferdinand explains what makes him top tier

Arsenal centre-back William Saliba

Cesc Fabregas revealed the role he played in bringing William Saliba to Arsenal, while Rio Ferdinand picked out one trait that makes the Frenchman the player he is.

Arsenal paid Saint-Etienne £27m to sign William Saliba in 2019. The size of the fee raised eyebrows at the time given how inexperienced the centre-half was. Indeed, when the deal crossed the line, Saliba had just 16 Ligue 1 appearances to his name.

Gunners fans were made to wait to see why their club made such a heavy investment. Three loan spells back to France with Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille followed.

However, the latter spell specifically caught the eye with Saliba earning a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year last season. He also scooped the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year prize.

Arsenal’s development plan was clearly complete and upon making his senior Gunners debut on opening day, Saliba has looked a cut above.

He quickly displaced Ben White, pushing the England international over to right-back. His latest display in his first north London derby on Saturday again showcased just how great of a talent Arsenal have on their hands.

Now, speaking in his role as a pundit in the BT Sport studio, Arsenal great Cesc Fabregas explained the role he played in facilitating the move.

Fabregas signed for Monaco at the beginning of 2019 – just in time to see Saliba break into the first team at Saint-Etienne.

Fabregas revealed he was contacted by an ex-Arsenal scout and by the sounds of it, gave his former club a ringing endorsement of Saliba.

Agent Fabregas lends helping hand

“That was a fantastic complete performance,” Fabregas told BT Sport. “I’d like to mention the special name, the fact he was so good he made it look easy is William Saliba.

“I’m sorry but this boy was in France on loan and I was watching him very closely because an ex-Arsenal scout asked me three years ago when we were playing St Etienne in a cup match.

“I was rested so I was in the stand, he said ‘watch this boy, I want to sign him’.

“He was 18, 19 and he was the best player on the pitch so that shows you the potential of this guy.

“He looks so easy, he could be Arsenal’s centre-back for the next 15 to 20 years.”

Ferdinand likes what he sees

Fellow BT Sport pundit, Rio Ferdinand, was equally impressed by Saliba.

The former Man Utd and England ace listed several excellent traits Saliba possesses. However, one in particular he displayed against Tottenham caught his eye.

“I think his composure, he’s very strong, mobile but it’s the composure in the pressure situations,” added Ferdinand.

“He was the most composed centre-back on the pitch today – especially for Arsenal.

“There were times today where in transition, Arsenal could’ve got hurt but how many times did we see him come out with the ball.

“At the top level, you need to be calm, composed in these situations and at the moment, he’s showing that beyond his years but he has had to be patient and going away which shows he’s got character.

“I’m sure he’ll have a good career going here, he’s only been here short amount of time but he’s already become a fan favourite.”