William Saliba has confirmed he will return to Arsenal this summer in an attempt to belatedly kickstart his career at the north London club.
The 21-year-old joined the Gunners from Saint-Etienne three years ago in a headline-grabbing £30million transfer, but is yet to make his competitive debut.
Upon taking over from Unai Emery, Mikel Arteta deemed the centre-half not ready for the rigours of English football and has sent the defender out on loan twice over the course of the last two-and-a-half years.
After impressing at Nice, Saliba looked destined to be given an opportunity last season, but a lack of European football, allied to the arrival of Ben White in a £50m deal, saw Arteta opt to farm Saliba out on loan again, this time to Marseille.
Saliba enjoyed a highly successful season at OM and helped Jorge Sampaoli’s side secure Champions League football, while he was named Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year.
The lure of Europe’s elite club competition led Saliba to suggest last month that he wanted to remain at Marseille, but Arteta insisted the plan was always to give the player an opportunity to impress at Arsenal.
And Saliba is now ready to accept the challenge of proving himself to Arteta and force his way into his manager’s plans for next season.
Speaking to Telefoot, the France international defender said: ‘I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left.
‘I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.
‘But it doesn’t just depend on me. In any case, to leave like this, would be a shame.’
Saliba confessed he was somewhat apprehensive about joining Marseille but insists he has matured during his 12 months at one of France’s biggest clubs and revealed they will always have a special place in his heart.
‘Surprising.. or magical,’ he said when asked to use one word to describe his spell as Marseille.
‘It’s my first full season. I was keen to show who I really am. It’s a very positive assessment and really I’m very happy with my season.
‘And that’s why I had this little lump in my stomach saying to myself: ‘Here you go to a club and you mustn’t laugh, you mustn’t have fun, you must play every game thoroughly.’
‘It’s as if I stayed at least two or three years, it’s really special. Even if I don’t come back to Marseille, I’ll never forget. Thanks to OM, I spent a great course in my career and it was they who boosted me.’
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