PART UN: William Saliba, a defensive stalwart for Arsenal who was born in France

Jun 14, 2023

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LONDON, England – One of England’s best center halves, William Saliba, may have had his future safeguarded by Arsenal by signing a new contract. However, this player was produced in France.

Saliba had already played for three Ligue 1 teams by the time he made his competitive Arsenal debut at age 21—Saint-Etienne, Nice, and Marseille. Each was essential to his growth.

When he was only nine years old, Scout Ludovic Paradinas met Saliba for the first time. He didn’t have the immediate impact you would have anticipated. According to Paradinas, “I was in Bondy watching a game on a synthetic pitch.” The youngster was already powerful and physically gifted, but lacked the technical aptitude found in a young attacker. “It was a Saturday afternoon, and William at that particular moment was playing as an attacker.

Due to his location on the field, Saliba’s playing career was unusual in that he spent a substantial amount of time as an undiscovered talent. In France, youthful talent is normally discovered around the ages of 12 or 13, but Saliba wasn’t noticed by Paradinas until he was 14 years old, at which point he was recommended to Saint-Etienne. Former Saint-Etienne academy center director Philippe Guillemet notes that Saliba’s prior position as a forward during his early years caused recruiters throughout France to overlook him.

Although Paradinas had seen Saliba compete at the U-13 level in Bondy, he wasn’t first convinced of his offensive ability. However, everything changed when Abdelaziz Kaddour, the technical manager at FC Montfermeil, contacted Paradinas to arrange a meeting with William Saliba, their freshly transformed center back. Saliba had not only moved clubs but also positions, which made Paradinas curious about his new responsibilities on the pitch.

When Paradinas decided to send Saliba to Saint-Etienne for a trial, they traveled there together with two other young football players, including Saidou Sow, who is currently a member of the Saint-Etienne first-team.

He picked them up from the railway station and gave them Saint-Etienne shirts, as is customary for young players on trial, according to former academy director Guillemet. They continued to the practice field, where Saliba first demonstrated his abilities. The coaching staff didn’t take long to be impressed by him.

Saliba already had exceptional athleticism at that time. Despite having space for growth, he showed excellent speed for a player of his size and a great grasp of the game, displaying anticipation and game intelligence. However, he could still do better when heading the ball.

Saliba’s playing stood out for its consistent participation and bravery. No matter what was going on, he was fully focused and engaged. He continuously found a teammate with a skillfully executed pass, demonstrating his technical prowess and outstanding mindset even while receiving a difficult pass.

Saliba’s sense of community at Saint-Etienne was an important part of his time there. He continued to live in the academy housing within the club’s training site even after making the switch to the main team.

Guillemet claims that Saliba chose this arrangement despite signing his professional contract because he lacked the confidence to be in charge of his own nutrition. He had access to prepared meals that the club’s officials could closely monitor and supervise by living in the training center. This choice demonstrates Saliba’s dedication to leading a disciplined and controlled lifestyle and caring for his physical needs while pursuing a football career.

Saliba made modifications to his apartment to make it more comfortable in addition to keeping his old room from the academy housing, which allowed him to maintain his sense of familiarity. When he had the money, he bought a big TV and put it at the foot of his bed. He was able to fully embrace the siesta lifestyle thanks to this set up, participating in a variety of activities inside the boundaries of his room that complemented his thrilling football career.

Continue Reading Part Deux of this article to learn more of this amazing French molding of an English football superstar.

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