The Gunners’ new defender was taught by the father of the free-scoring France international wonderkid
Arsenal new-boy William Saliba has revealed that he knew Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe when the pair were at school, and that the World Cup-winning forward’s father was his coach.
Saliba, a £27m ($33m) signing from St. Etienne, recently signed a five-year deal with the Gunners but will spend the upcoming season back on loan with the Ligue 1 side as part of the terms of his sale.
The 18-year-old centre-back grew up on an estate in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris called Bondy, where Mbappe also honed his skills as a boy.
“I know Kylian Mbappe,” Saliba said, speaking to Arsenal’s official website.
“He went to my primary school when we were little, and his father was my coach when I was little, too.”
Despite growing up in a tough neighbourhood, Saliba appears to speak fondly of his roots, explaining that his childhood helped him learn determination to change his circumstances, as well as enjoying playing football with friends.
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“I grew up on an estate,” Saliba continued.
“Honestly, growing up on an estate helps. You’re together with all your mates, you get to play in your neighbourhood on the local five-a-side pitches.
“You’re all together, and everyone likes football there, so honestly it’s easy. When you come from an estate, you’ve got the determination to get out of it.
Saliba is one of three confirmed Arsenal signings in this window so far, with Gabriel Martinelli and Dani Ceballos the other two.
Martinelli is an 18-year-old winger, who joins from Brazilian side Ituano for a fee reported to be around the £6m (€6.5m/$7.3m) mark, while 22-year-old midfielder Ceballos arrives on a season-long loan from Real Madrid as he searches for more regular playing time than he was getting under Zinedine Zidane.
However, the Gunners’ transfer business does not look set to end there. Lille winger Nicolas Pepe appears to be on the cusp of joining for a whopping €80m (£73m/$89m) despite reported interest from Napoli, Liverpool and Inter.
Arsenal have also been locked in negotiations for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney, valued by the Scottish champions at over £25m ($30m), seeing their first two bids rejected, while a third breakthrough bid could be imminent.