Folarin Balogun: Torn Between San Siro Giants

His sterling performance for Stade Reims has made him one of the most sought after youngster in Europe, with San Siro giants-AC Milan and fierce city rivals, Internazionale both mulling a move for Folarin Balogun

AC Milan and neigbours, Internazionale are known for their fierce rivalry at the San Siro Stadium, but their rivalry would go out of the field to the transfer market this summer as both sides are keen on signing Arsenal’s on-loan striker, Folarin Balogun ahead of the summer.

La Gazzetta dello Sport report that Balogun is in Milan’s sights for next season as they look for a future No.9, but Inter have also been following him for some time and have asked for information ahead of the summer mercato.

Balogun is attracting plenty of interest as he is having a great spell on loan at Stade Reims having scored 15 goals in 25 appearances, and at the end of the season he will leave Ligue 1 to return to Arsenal.

He is a movement-based striker who is very quick at attacking spaces and his margins for growth are still big. He would be ideal both for Milan – who have been focusing on quality young players for years – and for Inter who must rejuvenate their attack.

At 21 years and 252 days, Balogun became the youngest player to score at least 16 goals in his first season in Ligue 1 since Mohammed Salem with Sedan-Torcy in 1960/61. He is currently the third highest scorer in the French topflight division behind Lille’s Jonathan David and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.

His price tag is currently around €20-25m, but if he continues to score between now and the end of the season, the figure will increase again. It remains to be seen if either Milanese side make the investment.

The 21-year-old was always one of the most prolific strikers in the Gunners’ academy. Everyone who watched him tipped him to have a huge future in the game, but success at senior level didn’t come immediately.

However, Balogun is now showing his quality at the top level, and top clubs in Europe are keeping an eye on him.

Balogun will enter the final two years of his contract at Arsenal this summer.

The 21-year-old, who has scored more goals in Ligue 1 than Lionel Messi and Neymar this season, will want to play regularly after having a campaign as good as this one, but that won’t be easy at Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta has Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard up top, while Gabriel Martinelli has also played there this season. That’s more than enough firepower, which leaves Balogun in a tricky position.

That’s probably why other clubs are interested in his signature, with Gazzetta dello Sport claiming that Inter Milan are keen to secure a deal for the talented forward this summer.

The report claims the Nerazzurri see Balogun as an ‘interesting investment.’ It has further been reported that Balgun’s current price tag stands between £17 million and £22 million, but everyone knows that figure will go up if he continues his fine form.

The 21-year-old hasn’t played a lot for the senior side, but following his incredible campaign in France for Reims, Arteta has to consider giving him a chance this summer.

On the flip side, Balogun’s stock has never been higher. Arsenal are guaranteed to make good money if they decide to sell him.

Meanwhile, the Arsenal loanee has dismissed the narrative about Ligue 1 being a sub-par league as he continues to thrive.

The striker has headed to Reims for the season and has been prolific, scoring 16 times for the side who currently have the longest unbeaten run in Europe’s top five leagues. The French top flight has copped criticism over the past decade for its perceived lack of quality.

PSG, backed by their wealthy owners, have won the league eight times over the past decade to underline their dominance. No French side has won a major European trophy in that period either, but Balogun maintains that critique of Ligue 1 is off the mark having now played in it.

He told Onze Mondial : “Ligue 1 is really very difficult. I am very shocked when I hear people saying that the league is easy. I don’t understand why this league isn’t sometimes respected like it should be, especially on the internet. As a Ligue 1 player, I can say that it’s a very, very difficult division.

“There are lots of good, aggressive teams, and that’s without saying that the best players in the world are currently playing in this league, and despite that, they don’t win all of their matches.”

Only Kylian Mbappe and Jonathan David have scored more than the Arsenal loanee, who has long been highly-rated in north London, but has been unable to get the minutes that would aid his development.

Ligue 1’s reputation on English shores was highlighted by Peter Crouch’s recent take on Mbappe, who he believes has to move on. He said on BT Sport: “He’s in a league that is below the standard that he’s set. He’s been unbelievable for France, he’s record goalscorer for PSG and I think the time has come to try it in a top league, either Spain or England.”

Despite the perception, Mikel Arteta is hugely impressed with Balogun’s exploits across The Channel having previously seen a spell at Middlesbrough not go to plan.

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