William Saliba has put an end to speculation he could leave Arsenal this summer after confirming he will return to the club for pre-season.
The 21-year-old joined the Gunners from Saint-Etienne in a £27million deal in 2019 but has yet to play a competitive first-team match for the north London side.
Instead, he has been sent on loan back to Saint-Etienne as well as to fellow Ligue 1 clubs Nice and Marseille, excelling at the latter in the 2021-22 season.
William Saliba has confirmed he will 'be back with Arsenal' following a dramatic U-turn
The France international signed in 2019 but has yet to play a competitive first-team game
Saliba appeared to hint last month that he preferred to stay at Marseille by revealing his desire to play in the Champions League, while Newcastle, Leicester and Atletico Madrid have all been linked with moves.
But speaking to Telefoot, the France international insists he is ready to show his 'true face' to boss Mikel Arteta - whose men will be competing in the Europa League next term - and represent 'this great club'.
'I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left,' he said.
'I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.
He has had three loan spells in that time, most recently at Marseille where he excelled
'It doesn't just depend on me. In any case, to leave like this, would be a shame.'
Saliba - who still has two years left on his deal at the Emirates Stadium - also thanked Marseille for helping him reach 'the next level' in his career and show people his true worth.
'If I were to describe my season in a word? Surprising, or magical,' he added. 'It was my first full season. I was committed to showing people who I really am.'
'The assessment is positive and I'm happy with my season. When you look at Marseille from the outside, you say: it's good, but it's make or break. So I told myself: "you're going to this club and you can't joke around, you can't mess around, you have to play to the maximum every match".
'It's as if I've been at Marseille for at least two or three years. It's really special, even if I don't return to Marseille, I'll never forget it.
'Thanks to Marseille, I reached the next level in my career; they lifted me.'
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta (right) confirmed last month the 21-year-old would return
He said Saliba would not have played much last season ahead of Gabriel (left) and Ben White
The comments about his future will come as a relief to the Gunners, who some claim have appeared to send mixed signals to Saliba's camp with regards to his future.
But Gunners boss Arteta was affirmative in his assessment of the centre-back last month, telling RMC Sport: 'He has to come back.
'He has the experience and has been in the necessary environment in order to be competitive with us.
'If he had stayed with us this year, where we had one Premier League game every week, with Ben White and Gabriel [Magalhaes], he wouldn't have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that's for sure.
'For his growth and what he can do next season, that wouldn't have been good.
'William wasn't with us because he wouldn't have had the playing time to gain experience. That's it, there's nothing else.'
Marseille boss Jorge Sampaoli was keen to keep hold of the services of the centre back
But the news will come as a blow to Marseille, with manager Jorge Sampaoli recently revealing that he would be keen to keep hold of the 21-year-old, who made 52 appearances across all competitions for the club last season.
He told reporters: 'William's progress is linked to his development this season and the maturity he now has and his playing time.
'He is now consistent, he's grown up as a player. In relation to his situation at the club, I hope that there is a possibility for us to retain a player like him, who knows the team.
'But I don't know if it depends on OM, William or Arsenal. I don't know the possibilities in this case.'
Saliba was awarded the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year after an excellent season in 2021-22
Saliba initially appeared to have dealt the Gunners a blow, when he said after being named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year: 'It's an honour, a source of pride. I dedicate this trophy to my team-mates, my club and the supporters.
'Did I play my last match with Olympique de Marseille? I don't know. The future will tell us.
'The most important thing is to confirm this good season by qualifying for the Champions League. Afterwards, we'll see.'
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