Arsenal have reportedly rejected a request from Reims manager William Still to sign Folarin Balogun on a permanent deal.
The 21-year-old has been in sensational form since joining the French club on loan in the summer, scoring a league-high 14 goals in 21 Ligue 1 appearances.
Balogun sits above the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar at the top of the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts, with Mbappe and Alexandre Lacazette his closest challengers on 13 goals apiece.
The England Under-21 international drew a rare blank in a 0-0 draw with Auxerre at the weekend, but he notched his first senior career hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Lorient last Thursday.
Balogun’s move to Reims in the summer transfer window was a straight loan with no option or obligation to buy, and he is therefore due to return to Arsenal for the 2023-24 season.
However, The Sun claimed that Reims manager Still put in a January request to sign Balogun on a permanent deal, having been left hugely impressed with his contribution so far.
The report claimed that the Gunners swiftly rejected the 30-year-old’s approach, although they are still unsure whether to cash in on Balogun during the upcoming window.
The striker’s deal at the Emirates Stadium does not expire until the summer of 2025, but his path to the first team is currently blocked by Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah.
Instead, Arsenal are expected to give Balogun the chance to prove himself in the first half of the 2023-24 season, but he could be offloaded again in January if he struggles to impress.
The Gunners are reportedly fearful of Balogun’s value dropping if he cannot replicate his current form in England, and this summer may therefore give them the best chance to garner a high fee.
The Englishman has just two goals and one assist from 10 senior appearances in an Arsenal shirt, but he insisted that the Gunners were “his family” when asked by L’Equipe.
“Arsenal is my family. But I’ve spent my whole career in England and I knew it was going to be a different test when I came to Reims,” Balogun said.
“I didn’t know the language and I’m still trying to learn, but it was important for me to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. That’s the reason I’m here and hopefully it’s a decision that will pay off for me.
“I’ve already reached my target for the start of the season and now I want to do even better and I’m hoping to score 20 goals.”
Balogun has been a member of Arsenal’s youth setup since 2011 and was also loaned out to Middlesbrough for the second half of the 2021-22 season, scoring three goals in 21 appearances for the Championship side.