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In Focus: Balogun aiming for Gunners exit after USA switch
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Matthew Hill
Folarin Balogun could be on the move this summer
Folarin Balogun could be on the move this summer

Times are changing for Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun.

Last week, the 21-year-old striker put a long-running saga to bed when switching his international allegiance from England to the nation of his birth, the United States.

Now his club future is in the limelight as a goal-laden spell with French side Reims approaches its conclusion.

With the Gunners reportedly ready to consider offers for the youngster despite his impressive campaign, we put Balogun under the microscope.

Early promise

Born in New York City, Balogun moved to England with his Nigerian parents aged two and joined the Gunners' Hale End academy six years later.

His goalscoring exploits at youth level quickly gained him a reputation, most notably when firing Arsenal's Under-18s side to the 2018-19 league title with 25 strikes in just 19 appearances.

The 2020-21 campaign brought five first-team cameos in the Europa League, where goals against Molde and Dundalk prompted the North Londoners to extend his contract until summer 2025. 

And though a half-season loan at Championship side Middlesbrough last term brought mixed results, his efforts in France this year have been nothing short of sensational.

Only Kylian Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette and Jonathan David have bettered Balogun's 20-goal haul in Ligue 1 — all while playing for a Reims side currently sat in the division's bottom half. 

Folarin Balogun has been outstanding on loan at Ligue 1 outfit Reims
Folarin Balogun has been outstanding on loan at Ligue 1 outfit Reims

Lost Lion

Balogun's international career has also had a dramatic start.

A regular in Lee Carsley's England U-21s squad, the pacy forward bagged his seventh goal in 13 appearances for the Young Lions against Germany last September.

Yet seemingly frustrated by the lack of a senior call-up, he flirted publicly with the idea of switching his allegiance to Nigeria or USA — with the latter subsequently launching a charm offensive.

Asked about Balogun's situation in March, England boss Gareth Southgate said: "It is up to the player to weigh up where his heart feels.

"Is he prepared to wait a little bit for an opportunity if he backs himself and feels he can push his way into our squad? Because anybody who has followed us will know that we will give young players a chance."

Things came to a head last Tuesday when FIFA approved a request for him to switch nations, with Balogun saying: "My decision to represent the United States came together with my family. 

"In the end, it became a no-brainer, but for sure it's just something I wanted to do and it feels like I'm at home here."

Gunners dilemma

Balogun's fine season in the north of France has given Arsenal a decision to make.

Mikel Arteta is reportedly still unconvinced the 5ft 10in forward can replicate his fine form in the Premier League — especially as a first-choice centre forward.

As well as Gabriel Jesus, he would likely find himself behind fellow academy graduate Eddie Nketiah in the Emirates pecking order next term.

But Balogun is reluctant to revert to a fringe player after his heroics with Reims and is willing to push for a move away from North London if first-team action cannot be guaranteed.

In demand

Stefano Pioli wans to bring Folarin Balogun to AC Milan
Stefano Pioli wans to bring Folarin Balogun to AC Milan

A fee of around £30million will supposedly be enough to tempt Arsenal into a sale, with no shortage of interested parties.

Champions League semi-finalists AC Milan currently lead the race, with the Rossoneri having already made contact with Balogun's representatives.

Also keen are RB Leipzig and Marseille, while there is interest closer to home from both Leeds and West Ham. 

Given his age, the Gunners could do far worse than insert a buy-back clause in any agreement.

If not, he could well become of the club's — and England's — biggest regrets.


ArsenalPremier LeagueFolarin BalogunEnglandUSAAC MilanReimsLigue 1Serie A
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