illiam Saliba has provided a timely reminder to Arsenal of his growing abilities after being named as the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year.
The centre-back, 21, has excelled during a season-long loan stint at Marseille, an ever-present defensive rock for Jorge Sampaoli’s side after making 51 appearances across all competitions.
Saliba was recognised for his fine efforts across the 2021/22 campaign at the latest Trophées UNFP du football awards on Sunday night, claiming young player honours – an award picked up by Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni last term.
The Gunners defender was in fine company, with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe winning Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the third successive season as fervent speculation over his future continues.
Rennes boss Bruno Génésio was named Manager of the Year, while PSG’s Gianluigi Donnarumma was named best goalkeeper and Real Madrid’s evergreen Ballon d’Or favourite Karim Benzema won the prize for best French player abroad.
Marseille have made no secret of their desire to retain the services of Saliba, who is under contract at Arsenal until the summer of 2024.
“In relation to his situation at the club, I hope that there is a possibility for us to retain a player like him, who knows the team,” Sampaoli said last week. “But I don’t know if it depends on OM, William, or Arsenal, I don’t know the possibilities in this case.”
Atletico Madrid and Napoli have also been linked with moves for Saliba, who has said he would be willing to remain at the Stade Velodrome beyond the end of the season.
However, it has been reported that Arsenal plan to take him back to the Emirates Stadium this summer and integrate him into the first-team squad ahead of next season.
Mikel Arteta is dealing with something of a defensive crisis at present, with Rob Holding suspended for tonight’s key Premier League clash with Newcastle and the likes of fellow centre-backs Ben White and Gabriel both injury doubts.
Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Étienne aged 18 in a £27million deal back in 2019 and was immediately loaned back to the club, failing to make an impression upon his move to north London before then being sent out to Nice for the second half of the 2020/21 campaign.
Saliba has yet to make his first-team debut for Arsenal, but his rise at Marseille has been rewarded with two senior caps for France, earned in March friendlies against South Africa and Ivory Coast.