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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Felix Keith

Arsenal face difficult task keeping hotshot happy as reaction to snub speaks volumes

Mikel Arteta knows full well just how ambitious Folarin Balogun is.

So the Arsenal manager might not have been surprised to see Balogun post a pointed message on social media on Thursday after missing out on selection for England’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Gareth Southgate named his 25-man squad for the matches against Ukraine and Italy on Thursday, with Brentford striker Ivan Toney the headline selection. Toney has made the cut to provide support for Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford in attack for the fixtures, which will take place on March 23 and 26.

Balogun was hoping to sneak into the squad for the first time amid a brilliant season on loan from Arsenal at French side Stade Reims. The 21-year-old striker has scored 17 goals in 28 games in all competitions and is Ligue 1’s third-highest scorer, behind Kylian Mbappe and Jonathan David.

“In life go where your (sic) appreciated. B easy,” Balogun wrote on Instagram. The message was taken as a hint that Balogun could be tempted to switch international allegiances to play for Nigeria, or the United States.

He has scored seven goals in 13 appearances for England under-21s, but is yet to make the step up to the senior squad. Having been born in New York to Nigerian parents, Balogun is eligible to represent the United States and Nigeria.

Folarin Balogun has been in brilliant form for Reims this season (VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

HAVE YOUR SAY! Is Folarin Balogun ready to start regularly for Arsenal next season? Comment below.

Speaking to BBC Sport in October, Balogun said he was open to playing for Nigeria. "I haven't heard anything from Nigeria, but I'm open to anything because Nigeria is very close to my heart," he said. "My family's from there. I always have love for Nigeria."

The reaction is another example of Balogun’s headstrong attitude and absolutely crystal-clear confidence in his own ability. He recently admitted that, while onlookers might have been shocked, his brilliant form for Reims had not come as any sort of surprise to him.

“For me, it’s a special, special season that’s happening right now,” he told Canal +. “It’s not a surprise because I have a lot of belief in myself and I also have a lot of confidence.”

Mikel Arteta knows Folarin Balogun very well (Getty Images)

His form for Reims has been attracting attention, with Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that AC Milan and Inter Milan are both keeping a close eye on Balogun. Transfer attention is also nothing new when it comes to Balogun – back in early 2021 he was being tracked by a whopping 15 clubs as he stalled on signing a new contract with Arsenal.

In the end, Arsenal managed to convince him to stay and he signed a new five-year deal, but only after a prolonged back-and-forth. Balogun is only 21 years old, but he knows what he wants and that’s respect and regular game time.

Arteta was influential in keeping Balogun two years ago. And he will have to present another strong case to keep him focused on Arsenal once again this summer.

He has done it once, convincing Eddie Nketiah to sign a new deal last year amid plenty of interest from other clubs, and he will have to do it again. Balogun has shown in France that he is ready to step up, for Arsenal – and perhaps Nigeria. Those in power might have to bow to his wishes, or risk losing him.

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