William Saliba says he ignored Arsenal’s transfer wish over Marseille deal

Date published: Friday 6th August 2021 12:10 - Matthew Briggs

William-Saliba-Marseilles-passes ball against St Etienne July 2021

William Saliba has said it was his decision to sign for Marseille after ignoring Arsenal’s transfer wishes this summer.

The French centre-back spent the second half of last season on loan with Nice and was keen to return to his homeland again this season.

Saliba joined OM last month on a season-long loan deal.

Technical director Edu explained that he and Arteta believed that another chance of competitive football would be the best course of action for Saliba.

Edu told the club’s website: “Together with William, we have decided it will be good for his continued development to spend another season on loan.

“William joined us as an 18-year-old, and he is still only 20, so he is still developing all the time.

“William is a player with strong natural ability. Next season has the potential to be really beneficial for him at Marseille, a good club.

“To play another season in Ligue 1 will be very important for his development.”

What Edu failed to state was that Arsenal wanted him to stay in England.

Instead though Saliba opted for France after speaking with the Marseille president Pablo Longoria.

Saliba told La Provence after being officially unveiled at Marseille: “I had a chat with Pablo [Longoria], with the manager.

“I knew that’s where I was going to play this season, with a stadium on fire and fans who expect a lot. For a young 20-year-old player, it can only do me good.

“I’m the one who chose Marseille. Arsenal preferred that I go to England, but I knew that here was the right choice. I pushed and pushed for it.

“Marseille is one of the best clubs in France, with a lot of fervour in the city and the country. You need to sweat for the shirt when you’re here.”

The 20-year-old defender joined the Gunners from St Etienne in 2019 for a reported £27million but has yet to make his first-team debut.

Arteta assessed the player last summer and he was loaned back to St Etienne for the 2019-20 campaign.

He returned to Arsenal last summer and he looked as though he was ready to force his way into Arteta’s plans. However, he was then left out of the club’s competitive squads for the 2020–21 season, leaving him only able to play for Arsenal U23s.


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Arteta’s regret

It was a decision that Arteta regretted.

“I feel really bad for William Saliba,” Arteta said last October. “Because we had so many central defenders, we decided to leave him out of the squad which was really hurtful for me to do.

“I was hoping that Pablo (Mari) would be back in two weeks but he had a setback and then we don’t have Pablo and we don’t have William when he’s fit and available to play.

“But when you make those decisions, you can’t always think about every possible outcome.”

It left Saliba out in the cold before he spent the second half of last season with Nice.

READ MORE: Chelsea or Man City? West Brom? Ipswich? Newport? Wrexham? – picking your 2021/22 title winners acca

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