Arsenal could wrap up a deal to sign Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba in the coming weeks, according to reports in France.
Saliba broke into Saint-Etienne’s first-team in September and the 18-year-old had an outstanding debut season, helping Jean-Louis Gasset’s side to a fourth-place finish in Ligue 1.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United have registered a strong interest in Saliba and the centre-back is open to making the step up to the Premier League this summer.
Saliba’s agent hinted that the youngster could be on his way to Old Trafford after he was spotted in Manchester at the weekend, but it appears Arsenal are now favourites to win the transfer race.
Le 10 Sport claims the Gunners are in advanced discussions with all parties and talks are progressing so well that it’s possible an agreement will be reached in the ‘coming weeks’ for the France Under-19 international.
Saint-Etienne have requested that Saliba returns to them on loan next season, but Emery is not prepared to wait another year for defensive reinforcements after Arsenal shipped 51 goals in the Premier League.
It’s understood Saint-Etienne have slapped a €30million (£26m) price tag on Saliba, with Watford and Southampton also interested in the teenager.
Emery only has around £40m to spend on new recruits this summer and the Spaniard has prioritised signing a central defender.
Former Arsenal full-back Lauren is convinced by Saliba’s potential after watching the teenager’s meteoric rise in France. ‘Yes, he looks a very good player,’ Lauren told AmericanGambler.com.
‘Strong, tall, can come out of the back with the ball and an international for France.
‘He reads the game very well, which is important for a player at the back, you have to anticipate and he looks very good at just 18, so the future is bright!’
Saliba has also earned Jose Mourinho’s praise after an impressive string of performances towards the end of Saint-Etienne’s Ligue 1 campaign. ‘
I think he has everything needed to become a good player, much like Kurt Zouma, who I signed,’ the former Manchester United and Chelsea manager said.