Arsenal ‘could block Olympic call-up for William Saliba’

Arsenal 'could block Olympic call-up for William Saliba'

© Reuters

Arsenal could reportedly refuse to release France‘s William Saliba for the Paris 2024 Olympics if the defender is called up to represent his country.

After winning the race to sign the centre-back from Saint-Etienne in 2019, Arsenal immediately loaned him back out to Les Verts before also shipping him out to Nice and Marseille to glean more first-team experience.

Mikel Arteta‘s decision to send Saliba back to France for a third time in 2021 sparked fears that the 22-year-old could leave the club without making a single first-team appearance, but the Spaniard’s management of the defender has now been vindicated.

Since being integrated into the first-team setup in the summer of 2022, Saliba has forged a reputation as one of the best players in his position in the Premier League and has come up with five goals and two assists in 71 matches for the Gunners.

Arsenal’s end-of-season collapse last year coincided with Saliba’s absence with a back injury, but the centre-back has not missed a minute of Premier League action so far in 2023-24 and has also started all eight of their Champions League matches.

William Saliba warms up for Arsenal in November 2022© Reuters

Before the start of the 2023-24 campaign, Arsenal rewarded Saliba for his rise to stardom with a new long-term contract until 2027, and he has played his part in 11 Premier League clean sheets for Arteta’s side in the current season.

 

Now a 12-cap France international, the 22-year-old is a prime candidate to make the Bleus squad for the 2024 Paris Olympics, which will be managed by Under-21s head coach Thierry Henry.

As only three players over the age of 23 are permitted in each squad, Saliba would likely form part of a youthful defensive contingent, allowing Kylian MbappeOlivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann to comprise a senior attacking selection.

However, according to The Mirror, Arsenal may find themselves in a position where they have to block Saliba from playing at his home Olympics if the tournament clashes with the start of the new Premier League season.

The 2024-25 top-flight campaign is scheduled to begin on August 17, just eight days after the Olympic men’s football final and nine after the bronze medal match, and the report claims that Arsenal would likely have to work without Saliba for the start of the season if France enjoy a deep run.

William Saliba in action for Arsenal in September 2022© Reuters

Furthermore, a Euro 2024 call-up is also anticipated for Saliba, who would therefore be in line for an extended rest period before returning to London Colney for Arsenal’s pre-season.

However, the 22-year-old has already forgone one Olympics in 2021, having opted to prioritise his pre-season with Arsenal in a bid to prove his worth to Arteta, and it remains to be seen if the lure of a home Games could prove too strong to turn down.

As the Olympic Games are not recognised as a tournament by FIFA, though, Arsenal will still have the final say when it comes to letting players depart for the summer tournament.

Saliba will be involved for France in the upcoming international break, though, as Didier Deschamps‘s men prepare to take on Germany and Chile in a pair of friendlies on March 23 and 26 respectively.

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