1st Summer signing: Arsenal close in on deal for highly rated centre-back

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Arsenal are in pole position to sign Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba, according to reports in France.

Saliba, 18, broke into Saint-Etienne’s first-team in September and had an exceptional debut season in France, making 16 appearances for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side in Ligue 1.

The Premier League’s top teams are already keeping tabs on Saliba and Saint-Etienne have slapped a €30million (£26m) price tag on the France Under-19 international.

L’Equipe claims that Manchester United, Manchester City, Southampton and Watford are all interested in Saliba this smmer, but Arsenal are favourites to land the promising centre-back.

The report suggests that the Gunners ‘offer a framework’ best suited to Saliba’s development which could be enough to lure the youngster to north London.

Unai Emery, who only has a £40m transfer budget this summer, is prioritising a move for a central defender, with Kostas Manolas, Joachim Andersen and Mario Hermoso also linked in recent weeks.

Former Arsenal full-back Lauren is convinced by Saliba’s potential after watching the teenager’s meteoric rise in France.

‘Yes, he looks a very good player,’ Lauren told AmericanGambler.com.

‘Strong, tall, can come out of the back with the ball and an international for France.

‘He reads the game very well, which is important for a player at the back, you have to anticipate and he looks very good at just 18, so the future is bright!’

Former United and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also gave a ringing endorsement of Saliba last month.

‘I think he has everything needed to become a good player, much like Kurt Zouma, who I signed,’ Mourinho said.

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