ARSENAL fans are desperate for manager Unai Emery to sign William Saliba.
The centre-back is one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football and has all the tools to become a defensive rock for years to come.
The 18-year-old is closing in on a deal to move to the Emirates on a five-year deal costing around £27m plus add-ons – but will have to send him back to Saint-Etienne for next season.
It’s not hard to see why Arsenal are desperate to get him.
The France Under-20 star has been eased gently into things in Ligue 1 but has already shown flashes of a mouth-watering future.
He won a place in the ASSE starting XI in the final stretch of the season, averaging two tackles and just shy of two interceptions per game.
Dubbed the ‘new Raphael Varane’, Saliba is a skilled technician and powerful athlete who stands at an imposing 6ft 4in.
His debt to Mbappe’s dad
He owes part of his rise to the top to the father of Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe, Wilfried.
Another boy from Bondy, Saliba grew up in the same tough banlieu as the Real Madrid target.
The two youngsters have known each other since a very young age, having both played for prestigious local amateur club AS Bondy.
Saliba joined the club at six and was coached by Wilfried Mbappe.
Brondy is a football pit. There must be something magical about the water
Before becoming Mbappe’s agent full-time, Wilfried worked at the club for nearly 25 years in a variety of roles – as a coach and even sporting director.
The defender revealed: “[Wilfried] was direct, frank, he did not hesitate to push me.
“Even when I had a good match, he asked me more, he did not want me to rest on my laurels.”
Bondy, and other urban suburbs surrounding Paris, have been a hotbed for football talent in France for years.
Saliba added: “Bondy is a football pit. Many Bondynois [have] professional careers.
“There must be something magical about the water we drink!”
Mbappe’s father Wilfriend, right, coached Saliba at local club AS Bondy[/caption]
His frame and athleticism immediately catch the eye, with Saliba strong, rarely beaten in the air and extremely quick for a central defender.
Saliba’s physical gifts were on show from an early age.
Tonio Riccardi, another former coach, told Le Parisien that by age 12 he was already playing for the U15s – and outmatching them.
Riccardi said: “He was a player advanced athletically, he was already [5ft 9in].
“Because of his size, he was technically a bit clumsy but that was offset by his power.”
Saliba went on to join FC Montfermeil at 13, spending two years at the club, before moving to Saint-Etienne at 15.
It is the skills and temperament he has developed in the last couple of years that have scouts and managers across Europe drooling.
At times, Saliba looks like a player in the mold of Rio Ferdinand, a player confident and capable of bringing the ball out of defence and into midfield.
In fact, he is equally capable playing right-back, a testament not only to his athleticism, but his and confidence in possession.
There have been plenty of young defenders come through who have great skills and great physical traits but never make the next step.
Saliba looks different and it’s his mental gifts that set him apart.
He has a very, very cool head on his shoulders and commands the back line as if he is 28 rather than 18.
The defender is aggressive and determined when matching up with attackers and his positioning is preternatural.
Saliba has a gift for being in the right place at the right time to cut out a cross or a through ball – on those rare occasions he is beaten he has the speed and power to make up for it.
Arsenal Invincible Lauren is convinced the Gunners should be making a move.
Lauren said Saliba is: “Strong, tall, can come out of the back with the ball.
“He reads the game very well, which is important for a player at the back, you have to anticipate and he looks very good at just 18, so the future is bright.”
His only problem, it would appear, is that football may come too easy.
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In fact, his former France U18 coach Jean-Luc Vannuchi said as much.
“He must be hyper-aware,” said Vannuch.
“He has so many qualities that he has to stay focused all the time because he is [a level] above.
“It must not be too easy – that is the danger that lurks.”
Not a bad problem to have.
Saliba has all the physical, technical and mental tools to be a world class defender[/caption]
Saliba is a centre-back but is also capable of playing right-back[/caption]