Mikel Arteta says Folarin Balogun can have a bright future at Arsenal – but only if he wants it.
The highly-rated 19-year-old came off the bench against Dundalk in the Europa League win on Thursday to make his Arsenal debut.
Balogun’s involvement comes just weeks after reports linking him with a move away as the striker continues to reject the offer of a new contract.
His current deal is due to expire in the summer and Balogun is keen to seek regular first-team football.
But Arteta has now dangled the carrot of a future role at The Emirates in a bid to persuade the youngster to commit to Arsenal.
“He’s a player that I really like,” Arteta said in a press conference on Thursday.
“Obviously I’ve got this situation and I believe it’s later than what I would like because I wasn’t here when everything started to develop but yes, he’s a player that I would like to give chances to.
“That’s why he was in the squad today and I showed him that yes, we count on him and we believe in him and if he wants, he’s going to have a future in the club.”
Balogun boasts an impressive goal scoring record from his days in the Arsenal youth team.
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The American-born forward netted 25 times in just 19 appearances when playing for Arsenal’s under-18 side.
Sheffield United were one of the teams interested in snapping Balogun up during the transfer window, bidding £3million for his services.
That failed to get anywhere near Arsenal’s valuation though, as they demanded closer to £15m despite his contract being close to expiry.
Whether his first foray into the senior set-up will convince Balogun to stay remains to be seen, but his response to his debut hints he would be keen to extend his stay with The Gunners.
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Speaking after the 3-0 victory, Balogun told the Arsenal website : “It feels great [to make my debut]. It’s a moment I have been waiting for a little while so to finally get it feels great .
“I can only thank Mikel and the staff for this opportunity and I look forward to doing it more often.
“It’s been tough, I’ve been at a few other clubs doing trials and stuff like that, but I’ve been working my way through the academy and I think as time has gone on I’ve become a better player.
“I think that’s shown in my performances and I think it’s good now to get the recognition that my performances deserve.”