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Folarin Balogun poses yet another contract dilemma

Folarin Balogun’s Arsenal future is hugely uncertain. He poses yet another contract dilemma that may have to see the club compromise in their dealings.

At this moment, young players and academy prospects are assets that Arsenal should be looking to protect and nurture at all costs. Bukayo Saka may decide that his future lies elsewhere, but Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, and others all figure to play important roles in Mikel Arteta’s vision for the team.

As such, when David Ornstein stated during a recent Q&A session for The Athletic that before the COVID-19 lockdown, ‘there was a good chance’ that Folarin Balogun would be leaving in the summer, many fans were rightly concerned.

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Balogun, an incredibly prolific goalscorer at youth level, is regarded as one of the most promising players in the academy. His impressive performances have attracted international interest and Brentford reportedly made a £5m offer in January, an offer which Arsenal swiftly rejected.

Ornstein went on to mention the lack of a contract offer and that things could have changed during the lockdown. Balogun signed his first professional contract in February 2019, and that contract reportedly expires next summer. The fact that Balogun was only offered an 18-month contract is an issue. It is common for first professional contracts to be short, but exceptions should be made for elite prospects like him. Responding to Pain In The Arsenal on Twitter, Ornstein said that it is a ‘complicated situation’.

While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both look set to depart, the Gunners are certainly not short of promising strikers. Besides Balogun, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Tyreece John-Jules, and Sam Greenwood are all players whom the club think highly of.

In an ideal world, Arsenal would agree to new terms with Balogun. However, that ideal is difficult to come by these days. Considering the current financial plight of football clubs worldwide, one possible scenario is to sell the 18-year-old to the highest bidder but include a buy-back provision as part of the agreement to provide the club with the security of being able to repurchase Balogun for a predefined fee should he excel.

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Arsenal have been notoriously bad in recent years when it comes to selling talented young players. Serge Gnabry, Donyell Malen, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide — players whom the club would love to have now — were all sold for various reasons. No buy-back clause was inserted into any of their transfer agreements and they are now out of the club’s price range and reach.

They did include a buy-back stipulation when they sold midfielder Ismael Bennacer to Empoli in August 2017, but naively decided against using it before the Algerian made the move to A.C. Milan two years later. Bennacer has continued to flourish in Italy and was recently linked with a blockbuster move to Manchester City.

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Balogun, then, is the latest in a succession of Arsenal players whose contract situation has been handled poorly. If the club are eventually forced to sell, they must make the best of yet another bad situation.

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