Arsenal have explained the decision not to extend William Saliba’s loan with Saint-Etienne despite Mikel Arteta stating yesterday that he was open to the player staying at his boyhood club to play in the Coupe de France final in late July.
Saliba’s loan expired at midnight and no agreement was reached between the two clubs much to the frustration of the Ligue 1 club.
Les Verts obviously spent the night stewing over the situation before pinging out a pretty vicious statement this morning which claimed we’d imposed “absolutely unacceptable sports and financial conditions.”
We’ve responded with a statement of our own: “Throughout our discussions with St Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan.
“Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so.
“As William is returning from injury, we asked that St Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.
“To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.
“While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to St Etienne.
“We know this is a disappointment for William but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal.”
To give some context to that penultimate paragraph, Arsenal signed Saliba on a permanent deal last summer in a deal worth up to €30 million. The final €5 million of that agreement was split into two bonus clauses.
The first, Arsenal must pay Saint-Etienne €2.5 million if we qualify for the Champions League at any point during his current deal.
The second, Arsenal must pay Saint-Etienne €2.5 million if the defender started 1/3 of Saint-Etienne’s matches in the 2019/20. Interestingly, it was Arsenal who insisted on a performance-related clause for this season because we wanted assurances that our new boy would actually get game time to aid his development before he returned to us.
Back in March, it looked a formality that we’d have to pay out on the second clause. Saliba had started 16 games out of 41 – 39% of the total – and needed only one more start to hit the necessary number to cover him for the total 51 games in Saint-Etienne’s schedule.
After imposing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on the country, the French government soon after curtailed the football season and awarded the title to PSG. Saliba has been stuck on 16 starts ever since and Saint-Etienne, who are in financial trouble, have been agonisingly close to a much-needed cash injection.
When it was confirmed that the Coupe de France final could go ahead, albeit behind-closed-doors, it offered them one final chance. All eyes were on Arsenal to see if we’d let Saliba play.
It seems we were happy for him play in a cup final, but we weren’t going to pay €2.5 million to make it happen. Obviously, Saint-Etienne weren’t best pleased and unable to reach a resolution, we’re now at the point where barbs are being traded across the web. Oh dear.
Saliba will now head off on his holidays and will report for pre-season training at London Colney, whenever that is due to start.