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Neville compares sublime Saliba to 'young Rio Ferdinand'
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Matthew Hill
Gary Neville was extremely impressed by Arsenal debutant William Saliba
Gary Neville was extremely impressed by Arsenal debutant William Saliba

Gary Neville has heaped praise on Arsenal debutant William Saliba by claiming the youngster reminds him of his former team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

French international Saliba, 21, signed for the Gunners from Saint-Etienne back in 2019 in a £27million deal.

Yet he found himself loaned straight back to his former club in Ligue 1, before embarking on a short stint with Nice in 2021 and a season-long stay with Marseille last term.

Finally thrown in for his first Arsenal appearance at Selhurst Park last night, Saliba put in a commanding performance at the heart of his side's backline and was voted man of the match.

Former England defender Neville, 47, was full of praise post-match, saying: "I think the most important thing for young players is just to get out and play. 

"He’s gone and got football inside him and I was massively impressed by him. He reminded me of a young Rio Ferdinand.

"He’s such a young defender at 21. Getting through that second half, when Arsenal weren’t at their best, would have been the most pleasing thing for Mikel Arteta.

"Crystal Palace away, that’s a tough challenge and that’s a big performance from Saliba."

Fellow pundit and veteran centre-half Jamie Carragher echoed Neville’s thoughts, suggesting the five-cap international could be a game changer for the Gunners this term.

"I thought he was really good," Carragher said. "He looks the part, he looks a good player.

"I think Arsenal fans have been excited for this lad for a while. He looks the real deal. 

"Bringing him in certainly adds something for them. Just his physical stature alone will certainly help them in tough away games."

It was a successful start to the campaign for Arteta's men, who triumphed 2-0 thanks to Gabriel Martinelli’s first-half header and a late Marc Guehi own goal.


ArsenalPremier LeagueWilliam Saliba
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