Arsenal have released a statement defending their position in the William Saliba saga after being accused by Saint-Etienne of imposing ‘absolutely unacceptable sports and financial conditions’ in failed talks over temporarily extending the 19-year-old’s loan.
Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne last summer but immediately returned to the French side on loan for the duration of the 2019/20 campaign.
The loan formally expired on 30 June, but despite an initial willingness to extend it to cover the remainder of the delayed season, the Gunners could not reach an amicable agreement with Saint-Etienne. Saliba will now return to his parent club immediately.
Although the French league season was abandoned as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the Coupe de France final is still going ahead, with Saint-Etienne due to face Paris Saint-Germain on 24 July.
As a result of the breakdown in talks over his immediate future, Saliba, who was a regular for Saint-Etienne this season when fit, will not be able to take part in the final.
The French side made their feelings known publicly by releasing a statement titled, ‘William Saliba deprived of the final by Arsenal’, labelling the conditions set out by the Gunners ‘unacceptable’.
Arsenal have now sought to give their side of the story, putting the blame on Saint-Etienne by claiming the Ligue 1 club were not prepared to follow a training plan set out by the Gunners, who subsequently decided the player's fitness would be at risk if he were allowed to stay.
Arsenal even explained they would have lost money by extending the loan but were still willing to do so had Saint-Etienne been prepared to accept what they clearly thought were reasonable requests.
The Arsenal statement read, “Throughout our discussions with St Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan.
“Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so.
“As William is returning from injury, we asked that St Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.
“To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.
“While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to St Etienne.
“We know this is a disappointment for William but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal.”