Arsenal are reportedly scared of losing academy graduate Bukayo Saka to Premier League rivals if they fail to qualify for any UEFA competitions next season. The 18-year-old has attracted interest from Manchester United and Liverpool due to his superb performances for Arsenal this campaign.
The Nigerian-British player gained recognition last season under former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, scoring three goals and making five assists in four appearances. Saka made 23 appearances both in Europa and domestic cup campaigns under former interim manager Freddie Ljungberg and new manager Mikel Arteta.
The youngster is yet to put pen to paper on a new Arsenal contract, with his current deal due worth around £3,000-per-week is set to expire in just 18 months. The Gunners are have started discussing a new deal with him with which will see the starlet gets a wage rise in a bid to wade off interest from other clubs.
After signing his first professional contract with the club in September 2018, the 18-year-old has shown that his versatile and can adapt to any position he is asked to play. Saka has played in his preferred left-wing role and also impressed as a left-back while covering for Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, who are both out with injuries.
The England under-19 international broke a club record last September by becoming the youngest player to play for Arsenal in Premier League history when he featured against Manchester United just 25 days after his 18th birthday.
And according to The Times, the player and his agents are stalling on negotiations for a new deal with Arsenal facing the prospect of not competing in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. The report added that Saka wants to continue his development by playing against Europe’s biggest clubs.
The 18-year-old has the most assist by any Arsenal player or any other Premier League teenager this season, despite being played out of position at left-back. It was his cross to Alexander Lacazette that gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Olympiakos in the Europa League on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno has urged Saka to stay at the club ‘for a very long time’ after helping the Gunners defeat the Greek side.
Leno told BT Sport that the teenager has been outstanding for Arsenal this season and hopes the winger commit his future to the club.
“Bukayo is an outstanding player, hopefully, he stays very long at Arsenal.
“He is very important for us. I think today his cross was very good for Laca to score.
“We’re happy now we’ve got the advantage and the away goal. At home, we want to beat them again and go through to the next round.”
Speaking on Saka’s performance, manager Mikel Arteta said: “We try to put him in the right position, surrounded by the right players in the right position.
“He’s not a full-back. He’s responded in the right way, he’s got a lot of courage. I’m very pleased with his performance.”
Arsenal occupy the 10th place in the Premier League table and are seven points adrift from fourth-placed side Chelsea who holds the last Champions League spot. The Gunners are also four points away from Manchester United who occupy the final Europa League spot.