Arsenal youngster Folarin Balogun has been urged to make the “right decision” and leave the club this summer when his contract expires.
The American-born forward is considered one of the brightest prospects breaking through from the club’s academy, but is seemingly no closer to agreeing a new deal.
Balogun first opened the door to a move away from Arsenal due to a lack of first-team opportunities, though Mikel Arteta has since brought him into the fold.
Yet despite making five appearances, scoring twice, the 19-year-old has not featured for the Gunners since before Christmas and looks unlikely to again this season.
The Europa League has been Balogun’s main source of game time, but he didn’t even make the squad for the clash with Benfica on Thursday.
Now ex-Arsenal striker Benik Afobe believes Balogun needs to call time on his spell in North London in order to kick-start his career.
“It all depends on your positioning and who’s ahead of you… Balogun, he’s good, I’ve seen him play,” Afobe told The Beautiful Game Podcast. “I think it’s the right decision for him to leave.
“The captain [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] is a number nine, the other number nine is top goalscorer this season, [Alexandre] Lacazette, and Eddie Nketiah is a couple of years older than him and has also done well.
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“If you want to keep waiting for your chance, before you know it you’re 23, and teams, managers will start picking up players who are more experienced in the Championship, who have 100 appearances to their name, instead of the guy from Arsenal who has played for England Under-19’s.
“And that’s kind of what’s happened to me as well.”
Balogun made his debut against Dundalk in the Europa League back in October, and played three more times in the competition, scoring on two occasions.
His last involvement with the senior squad was as a late substitute in the Carabao Cup defeat to Man City on December 22.
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Boss Arteta is still hopeful of retaining Balogun’s services, stating last week: “No, I’m still very positive that Flo is going to stay with us and it’s what we’re trying to do as a club, and it’s what I’m trying to do as a manager.
“As far as I know from last week, the player wants to be here, so I’m positive. I think he’s made some big progress in a few months.”
Clubs in Germany have showed an interest in Balogun, while Liverpool were also linked.
Reports in Italy claim AC Milan are even lining him up as a potential replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic should the Swedish superstar leave this summer.