Fola Balogun tells Mikel Arteta ‘play me or sell me’ as Arsenal face tough call

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Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has effectively issued an ultimatum to Mikel Arteta for next season: ‘Play me or sell me.’ The 21-year-old is celebrating this week after scoring his first ever senior international goal in the United States’ 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League final win over Canada.

The 34th-minute strike was his first for the States in only his second appearance since his switch of national allegiance from England to the USA was agreed upon by FIFA.

Balogun spent last season on loan with French Ligue 1 side Reims, where he scored 21 goals in 37 appearances and is now said to be wanted by Serie A side Juventus.

The Gunners are not planning to sell their promising prospect but are expecting to bring a new striker to the north London club this summer, potentially blocking a first-team pathway for Balogun.

The New York-born forward still has two years left on his current deal, but as his stock continues to rise, both in European football and on the international stage, he has now made his own intentions for the future perfectly clear.

Speaking after the Nations League triumph in Las Vegas, Balogun said: “What I can say is that I definitely won’t go on loan again. I’m not sure the discussions that are going to take place. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. But I’m just committed to now, I try to stay in the present.”

Born in New York to Nigerian parents, but raised in England, Balogun joined Arsenal’s academy at the age of eight after being spotted playing for junior league side Aldersbrook. The centre-forward also had a trial with Tottenham and almost joined the north London side before signing for rivals Arsenal instead.

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After signing his first professional contract in February 2019, he was linked with a move to Brentford less than 18 months later after failing to agree a new contract.

After finally making his Arsenal debut against Dundalk in the Europa League on October 29, 2020, he scored his first senior goal in the same competition a month later against Molde.

His Premier League debut arrived in August 2021 in a 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Brentford but went on loan to Middlesbrough in the following January, where he made 20 appearances and scored three goals.

His time in France with Reims was productive, helping the club to an eleventh-placed finish, but it would now appear that Balogun desires a place he can permanently strut his stuff to pursue regular first-team football.

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