Puel rueing sale of Saliba

Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne boss Claude Puel says he wishes young defender William Saliba was not joining Arsenal next season.

A deal was agreed in the summer to sell the young Frenchman to Arsenal for a fee in the region of £27million.

However, a sweetener was included meaning the Ligue 1 side were able to take him back on loan for the 2019-20 season.

Saliba is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in European football and has shone at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

They had the fourth-best defensive record in the French top flight last season, with the 18-year-old featuring heavily, particularly in the second half of the season.

Their record this term has not been quite as good as they sit 12th in the table although the French youth international has still turned in some good performances.

Puel, who took over as manager from Ghislain Printant in October following a poor start to the season, says he does not understand the club’s transfer policy of selling their best young player and taking him back on loan.

“It’s hard to accept the fact we sold our best player, a young kid, to help fill the coffers. When you have to sell your gems to sort out the budget and then do short-term deals to fill in the gaps, you’re just being reactionary,” he said.

“It’s done now and I’ve got nothing to say because it allows us to perform. Saint-Etienne have held their position in the past few years. Finishing fourth [last season] was a great result.”

Saliba will join up with Arsenal at the start of the 2020-21 season and compete for a place in the backline with the likes of Sokratis, David Luiz, and Rob Holding.