Folarin Balogun may have slipped down the Ligue 1 scoring charts in the last couple of weeks, but the fact he’s even in the conversation alongside some of the biggest names in French football is remarkable.
Chased by clubs across Europe in the summer, many were surprised when the England under-21 international opted to spend the current season at Stade de Reims in France. The aim was to build on a loan spell with Middlesbrough, get more experience in senior football and maybe bag a few goals.
Nicolas Pepe, himself on loan with Nice, set Balogun a 10-goal target and the young Gunner reached that total before the break for the World Cup. He’s since bagged six further goals, including a stoppage-time equaliser at the Parc des Princes to alert the continent to his burgeoning talent.
What’s more, under 30-year-old English coach Will Still, Reims are now unbeaten in 16 games and sit comfortably in ninth place in Ligue 1. All in all, things couldn’t be going better for Balogun, who seems to be the only person not surprised by the way things are playing out.
“It’s a special, special season that’s happening right now,” he told Canal+.
“When I look back on my time in France, I’ll realise that this was something really special, I’ll appreciate it a lot more when the season is over. My feeling right now is that I’m very, very happy here.”
It remains to be seen what Mikel Arteta plans to do with Balogun in the summer, but the fact he’s proving he can shoulder the responsibility of leading an attack at just 21 suggests he has a bright future.
I had a interesting sit down with Canal + – Go and have a look 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/x33AWzbGPY
— Balogun (@balogun) March 10, 2023
“It’s not a surprise because I also have a lot of belief in myself and I also have a lot of confidence,” says the striker.
“I try to carry the confidence with me to all these places [the big teams]. When we played away at Paris, it was a very, very different experience for me because the stadium was so beautiful, the atmosphere, the ambience was very nice.
“At the end of the day, I know the level I’m capable of playing at so when I can, I like to prove I’m capable, so it’s good.
He added: “My mentality is just to prove that I’m capable. A lot of people might be surprised by the numbers that I’m putting up now but when I look back, even in the youth teams, I’ve always been the highest scorer.
“For me, it’s not a surprise. It’s just a case of maybe showing other people around the world what I’m capable of. This is why I’m able to stay focused and also quite calm.”
With 12 matches remaining, you wouldn’t bet against Balogun reaching the 20-goal milestone.