William Saliba joins Nice on loan until end of the season

Robbie Copeland
Saliba has joined the French side on a six-month deal
Saliba has joined the French side on a six-month deal / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Arsenal defender William Saliba has returned to France, joining Ligue 1 side Nice on loan until the end of the season.

The 19-year-old centre-back was signed from Saint-Etienne 18 months ago but is yet to make an appearance for the Gunners, despite costing the club somewhere in the region of £27m.

He spent last season back on loan with his former club to gain further experience, but hasn't been able to force his way into Mikel Arteta's plans - leading Arsenal to confirm that he will return to France with a view to playing regular first-team football.

Sporting director Edu told the club website: “William Saliba is a player with a huge amount of talent and potential. We’re confident he will have a great career with us but we must remember that he is still only 19 years old and has a lot of time ahead of him. 

"William experienced a very challenging time last year, with his playing time limited by injury and the early ending of the Ligue 1 season due to the pandemic. 

"So together with William, we have decided that spending the rest of the season on loan with Nice is the best way for him to develop. We will be keeping in close contact with William during his time with Nice and look forward to seeing him make good progress until the end of the season.”

Former teammate Fofana is shining brightly at Leicester
Former teammate Fofana is shining brightly at Leicester / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Saliba's inability to force his way into Arteta's thinking is in stark contrast to former teammate Wesley Fofana, whose stock is rising sharply following his big-money move to Leicester. He already looks at home in the Premier League, settling alongside Jonny Evans in the heart of defence to propel the Foxes into the top three.

Arsenal still harbour hopes that Saliba will evolve into a player of considerable talent, but this latest venture back to his homeland was far from the plan when he returned to the Emirates Stadium last summer.