Arsenal looked set for a legal battle over a bonus clause in their contract with Saint-Etienne for the transfer of William Saliba, according to reports in France but talk has cooled.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: William Saliba of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 13, 2019 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
ST ALBANS, ENGLAND: William Saliba of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

L’Equipe (via GFFN) claimed Arsenal and Saint-Etienne agreed on the now-contentious clause as part of a couple of bonuses in their William Saliba deal last summer, in addition to the original €25m fee.

The first was that Arsenal will owe Saint-Etienne €2.5m if they qualify for the Champions League whilst Saliba is under contract with them. In the end, they finished 17th so that’s not an issue.

The second was another €2.5m if Saliba made 17 starts this season in all competitions. Arsenal wanted to ensure the centre-back would play regularly on loan, so they decided to include the clause.

William Saliba applauding the fans (Photo via Saliba on Instagram)
William Saliba applauding the fans (Photo via Saliba on Instagram)

Initially, Arsenal actually pushed for 30 appearances, but they also wanted the Ligue 1 club to request permission to play Saliba more than once a week. The two clubs eventually agreed this was too restrictive and compromised on the 17 starts clause.

Saliba only made 16 starts, however, largely thanks to a couple of injuries and the early end to the season.

To make things more complicated, Saint-Etienne wanted Saliba to play in their Coupe de France final against PSG in August hence the ongoing wranglings between the two sides over whether he could play or not.

Saliba could have started that match, but only if Arsenal agreed to loan him back temporarily. Not, however, if it was going cost them €2.5m and in the end Saliba didn’t play with other concerns given as the reason.

There is also the argument that Saint-Etienne followed the spirit of the clause, starting Saliba as often as possible, and it was only circumstances beyond their control that stopped them fulfilling it.

The debate over this interpretation could lead to a legal dispute for the money. With the extra financial pressure on both clubs as a result of the pandemic, this isn’t great timing.

  • This article was updated on 17 August to reflect developments.
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