William Saliba has expressed his ‘hurt’ at a lack of game time at Arsenal and he is surprised to be playing football in France again so quickly.
The young center back was signed for £27 million from Saint Etienne in the summer of 2018, but was allowed to stay back on loan for a year to gain more experience before joining the club.
Arsenal fans were excited at the prospect of having the 19-year-old in the heart of the defence but Mikel Arteta believed he wasn’t ready.
He couldn’t go out on a second loan move due to delay in paperwork and wasn’t included in the Premier League and Europa League squads.
In a bid to play football again, Saliba agreed to join Nice earlier this month and he’s already enjoying regular football.
He was asked about the prospect of facing his former club Saint Etienne while representing another club on Sunday. He said:
“Honestly, if you told me a year ago, I honestly would not have believed you,” he told TF1 [translated by Get France Football News]
“I really, really, really didn’t think that I would be transferred for €30m and to think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me and the fans were excited about me, and you find yourself in the reserves, play zero, zero nothing in the Europa League or the league. I was in the squad once in the League Cup.
“It hurt me, it affected me. I don’t think I left too early. When you feel ready you have to go. I don’t think I left too early. These things happen. I believe in myself.”
“For me the best choice, the best decision was to join OGC Nice because there is a good project, a good team, a good level of ambition, who like to play in a certain way,” he said.
“It feels good to play and to have consistent game time, I am young, I am 19, and it is by playing matches like this that you improve. You see what mistakes you make and you correct them.”
He added: “I don’t know [about the future]. I have learned now that it is better not to look too far in the future. So I am focused on just these 6 months to try to give absolutely everything and for the rest, we will see.”