William Saliba saga takes fresh twist as Marseille chief ignores Mikel Arteta promise

Arteta 'in pain' after Arsenal miss out on Champions League

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Marseille president Pablo Longoria appears to have ignored Mikel Arteta’s claims that William Saliba will remain at Arsenal next season as the Ligue 1 outfit reportedly continue to explore the possibility of a deal. Gunners boss Arteta this week insisted Saliba is part of his plans next season, but that seemingly hasn’t deterred Marseille from attempting to re-sign the highly-rated centre-back following his successful loan spell.

Despite Arteta’s remarks, Longoria refused to give up hope of bringing the Gunners defender back for a second spell. He told RMC Sport: “We had a lot of conversations analysing William Saliba’s season, especially in the last few days. He’s coming off an extraordinary season, with one of the highest number of matches played in Europe.

“He also joined the France team, which is incredible at his age. We discussed a lot internally about what we can do, to find out what the possibilities are. We respect his club, we have to thank Arsenal. It’s a friendly club that helped us a lot during the last transfer window. We have very good relations.

“We have to talk to each other, see if there is the possibility of reaching an agreement between the clubs, there is the player’s will, the club’s will… But above all, we must respect Arsenal.”

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The comments come just a day after the same outlet revealed Arteta intended to retain Saliba’s services next season. The Spaniard told RMC Sport: “He has to come back. He has the experience and the environment necessary to be competitive with us.

“If he had stayed with us this year, with a match of Premier League a week, with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.

“For his growth and what he can do next season that wouldn’t have been good. William wasn’t with us because he wouldn’t have had the playing time to gain experience. That’s it, there’s nothing else.”

RMC Sport reported last week that Saliba, who scooped this season’s Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award, told Marseille that it was his intention to return to the French club. It has also been reported that Marseille may well be priced out of a move for the 21-year-old amid talk of potential buyers having to shell out in excess of £25million to sign the centre-back.

Longoria remained coy when that price tag was mentioned, but appeared to refuse to rule out finding a way to finance a potential deal for Saliba. He added: “I’m not talking about numbers or prices.

“There are different strategies, different ways of entering into transactions. Above all, you have to come to an agreement if there are possibilities of being able to move forward. In France, I realise that we talk a lot about transfer prices.

“The operations are much more complicated than just talking about a fixed transfer price. Because it’s not the same as paying 60 million euros in cash or 60 million euros in six or seven years.”

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