Arsenal are expected to complete the signing of William Saliba for €25m plus bonuses, before loaning the defender back to Saint-Etienne, according to reports in France.

Saint-Etienne's French defender William Saliba (L) vies with Nîmes' French forward Clement Depres during the French League Cup round of 16 football match between Nimes Olympique and AS Saint-Etienne at the Costières stadium in Nîmes, southern France on November 27, 2018. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP)
Saint-Etienne’s French defender William Saliba (L) vies with Nîmes’ French forward Clement Depres during the French League Cup round of 16 football match between Nimes Olympique and AS Saint-Etienne at the Costières stadium in Nîmes, southern France on November 27, 2018. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP)

First thing on Thursday morning, Manu Lonjon of Yahoo Sport France reported that the board of ASSE were in a meeting to discuss the market, with Saliba’s offer ‘surely on the table’.

Shortly afterwards, Romain Collet-Gaudin of Canal Plus reported that Saliba was now expected to sign for Arsenal for €25m plus bonuses. However, Collet-Gaudin added that Saliba would be loaned back to Saint-Etienne, as per previous reports.

Saliba is a big talent with a bright future ahead of him, so signing him up now would be excellent business by the Gunners. It would be disappointing not to have him available for the current season though, given Arsenal’s defensive issues last year.

Given Saliba has only just turned 18, Arsenal have to be realistic with their expectations of him. Another year gaining experience in France with the pressure off may well result in many years of better performances for the Gunners afterwards.

It all depends on how the deal is structured. If Arsenal are paying the entire €25m now, that’s going to seriously eat into their budget this summer.

If they’re paying the majority of the fee next year, with only a small upfront fee, then they can focus on signing another defender in the meantime. We’ll have to wait for further details on that.

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