Gary Neville compared William Saliba to a young Rio Ferdinand after the Arsenal defender impressed on his debut.
Saliba, 21, was made to wait a long time for his Gunners bow – since signing for £27million in July 2019, he's had three loan spells in Ligue 1. But he showed Mikel Arteta what he'd been missing with an assured performance against Crystal Palace on Friday (August 5) evening.
And it caught the eye of Sky Sports pundit Neville, who felt it was reminiscent of Manchester United legend Ferdinand. He said: "The most important thing for young players is to play football, they get stuck in between first-team and reserves, he’s got football inside him.
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"Look, I was massively impressed by him. He reminded me of a young Rio Ferdinand and he will become stronger and his body will become more coordinated, he’s such a young centre-back.
"Crystal Palace away is a tough game, they throw everything at you, they drive at you all the time, that’s a big night for him. The clean sheet coming through that second half when they wasn’t at their best was the most enjoyable thing for Mikel Arteta.
Saliba had to be patient to get his shot in the Arsenal side, but an injury to Takehiro Tomiyasu opened the door for him to make his mark. “It’s been a long time I’ve waited for this moment, I’m so happy to start my first game with a win and a clean sheet," he said post-match.
"It’s never easy, you have to give your maximum and it was good. It’s the first game, it’s important to win for the confidence and to start the season well. It helped me because I’m young, I need to play. Now I’m back, I hope we will have a good season."
Could Saliba eclipse Ferdinand's career? Let us know in the comments section.
Like his colleague Neville, Jamie Carragher liked what he saw from the France international. He added: "I thought he was really good. 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. Just his physical stature, will certainly help them in tough away games."
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