Come, if you will, back with me to the July 1st, 2020. Bukayo Saka signs a new contract with Arsenal, the relief within Arsenal’s fan community is palpable. Finally, a nagging worry that Saka would walk away for nothing upon his contract expiry was decimated.
Since the contract extension, Saka’s progression curve has continued on a meteoric rise. With 7 domestic goal contributions already this campaign for the 19-year-old and an Arsenal Player of The Season award appearing as an inevitability, many are already asking whether Saka is the most talented Hale End Academy graduate ever. It’s clear why Arsenal were so desperate to keep him.
His reported wage? £30,000 per week. Reports suggest talks are already under way to improve the terms of the deal signed last Summer. Well deserved.
However, his current wage gives us a good idea of how much Arsenal believe their young players should be paid. At the point of extension, Saka’s place in the starting XI wasn’t yet secure and it’d be fair to say that he was still finding his feet at a professional level.
Thus, the reports suggesting Folarin Balogun, a fellow academy graduate, is demanding a wage packet of £40,000 per week in order to extend are rather bewildering. That sense of bewilderment spirals from the fact Balogun is yet to start a first team match for Arsenal.
The striker has a wonderful record at youth level and his 3 brief cameos in the Europa League Group Stage producing 2 goals suggested Balogun should certainly be one Arsenal fans should keep an eye on going forward. However, since notching against Dundalk in December, no progress had been made on the contract front.
One would suspect this to be the reason Balogun hasn’t featured in an Arsenal match-day squad since that 4-2 victory in Ireland. Ambiguously, he’s also been left out of consecutive Arsenal under-23 matches and deleted all his Instagram posts.
Mikel Arteta has been insistent on his stance regarding Balogun every time he’s asked questions about him in press conferences. Arteta wants Balogun to stay. Arteta believes Balogun wants to stay.
Here’s the most recent update from the Spaniard on Balogun’s situation:
“I think I am pretty positive about it and every time I spoke to him, he mentions the same thing, that he’s determined to stay here and he wants to stay here.
“He has some really positive conversations with his agent as well and Edu is in charge of that.
“He’s been spending a lot of time and energy to make that deal happen because it’s important for us to keep our talent in the house, and what we can guarantee is that we’re doing everything we can to keep him.”
Arteta’s ability to speak persuasively and candidly to the media is one of his most attractive traits. Public revelations of praise for a player doubtlessly have a positive impact. It makes you question, what more can Mikel Arteta really do?
A cynic’s answer would be simple – play Balogun. Yet, Arsenal’s stance appears firm. Sign then play, not the other way round. That has and always should be Arsenal’s policy towards young players. Until a youngster proves himself at a professional level, he straightforwardly isn’t deserving of a lavish contract.
Unless, of course, said youngster accepts terms appropriate for a player on the cusp of breaking into the first team. Balogun, or at least Balogun’s representatives, don’t seem content with that. Also understandable.
Balogun is one of English football’s hottest prospects. It is said that clubs across Europe have been trying to tie down the New York-born teenager to a pre-contract agreement. Unquestionably, there will be teams offering more money to Balogun than Arsenal are currently.
This leaves Arsenal in a sticky situation. Balogun’s agent, Elite Project Group Ltd., represent a handful of Arsenal academy graduates. Should Arsenal refuse meet Balogun’s desires, this could damage their relationship with the agency group.
Alternatively, if Arsenal do agree to satisfy Balogun’s pricey demands, Elite Project Group Ltd. may feel Arsenal are the sort of club who can be manipulated, thereafter telling their other clients to demand improved terms from the Gunners.
In terms of the club’s overall wage structure, Balogun’s situation causes further issues. How can you justify paying Balogun more than Reiss Nelson per say? As aforementioned, Balogun hasn’t started a game for Arsenal. He simply shouldn’t be earning any more than the academy graduates who have already adopted fully established first-team spots.
One senses Arsenal must draw the line with Balogun as soon as possible. Perhaps they have already. Regardless of how good he may become, no youngster who’s never featured in a Premier League game is worth tampering with your wage policies for.
Arsenal fans shouldn’t lose hope. Balogun’s agency has a history of letting their clients’ contracts run down to their dying embers and extending them at the last minute. Perhaps the youngster will lower his demands and sign on in the Summer.
However, in no circumstances should the club satisfy Balogun’s current extravagant demands. The game of cat and mouse continues between Edu and Elite Project Group Ltd.