Mbappe and me, by incoming Arsenal teen defender Saliba

William Saliba

He grew up with PSG star Kylian Mbappe on a tough council estate. He was coached by Mbappe’s dad. And he will soon be wearing the colours of the Arsenal. William Saliba, the Gunners’ newest signing, has been reflecting on his childhood ahead of joining up with the north London powerhouse in the summer.

Central defender Saliba, who is aged 19, signed a deal said to be worth a fee in the region of £27million at the Emirates Stadium last summer and was immediately loaned back to French Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne to allow his development to flourish.

Today is his birthday and the club’s official website have featured a number of profiles and features on the player who is heading to north London soon. In one of these pieces, Saliba lifts the lid on growing up in Bondy, a suburb of Paris, which has a reputation as something of a hotbed for football talent.

And Saliba, who elected to switch to the Premier League and Arsenal ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, has revealed he had a famous childhood pal in his council estate.

Speaking to Arsenal.com, he said:

“I grew up on an estate. Honestly, growing up on an estate helps. You are together with all your mates, you get to play in your neighbourhood on the local five-a-side pitches. You are all together, and everyone likes football there, so it’s very easy. When you come from an estate, you’ve got the determination to get out of it. I know Kylian Mbappe, too. He went to my primary school when we were little, and his father was my coach when I was little, too.”

Mbappe has gone on to bigger and better things and Saliba is also tipped to reach the highest of highs in the professional game — and he gets the chance to do that under Mikel Arteta once football returns, hopefully in time for next season’s scheduled start.

Ex-Gunners defender Mikael Silvestre is one former player who reckons the defender has what it takes to succeed. He said that he believes that the teen sensation will be an instant hit with the Gunners.

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut football down around the globe, he said:

“He is currently playing for a struggling Saint-Etienne side, but his displays have been good and he’s been consistent. Defensively he is strong – so he’ll be looking to impress in pre-season. He’ll need to adapt in that period, but he has enough time to learn from the Arsenal staff and players. He is still very young but has great experience from his time in Ligue 1. He will continue to learn from the current centre-backs but he’ll have a big part to play from day one.”