Football

Gary Neville compares sublime William Saliba to ‘young Rio Ferdinand’

Gary Neville heaped praise on Arsenal debutant William Saliba by claiming the youngster reminds him of his former team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

Gary Neville heaped praise on Arsenal debutant William Saliba by claiming the youngster reminds him of his former team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

French international Saliba, 21, signed for the Gunners from Saint-Etienne back in 2019 in a £27million deal.

Yet he found himself loaned straight back to his former club in Ligue 1, before embarking on a short stint with Nice in 2020 and a season-long stay with Marseille last term.

Finally thrown in for his first Arsenal appearance at Selhurst Park last night, Saliba put in a commanding performance at the heart of his side’s backline and was voted man of the match.

Former England defender Neville, 47, was not shy in his praise post-match, saying: “I think the most important thing for young players is just to get out and play.

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“He’s gone and got football inside him and I was massively impressed by him. He reminded me of a young Rio Ferdinand.

“He’s such a young defender at 21. Getting through that second half, when Arsenal weren’t at their best, would have been the most pleasing thing for Mikel Arteta.

“Crystal Palace away, that’s a tough challenge and that’s a big performance from Saliba.”

Fellow pundit and veteran centre-half Jamie Carragher echoed Neville’s thoughts, suggesting the five-cap international could be a game changer for the Gunners this term.

“I thought he was really good,” Carragher said. “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.

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“Bringing him in certainly adds something for them. Just his physical stature alone will certainly help them in tough away games.”

It was a successful start to the campaign for Arteta’s men, who prevailed 2-0 thanks to Gabriel Martinelli’s first-half header and a late Marc Guehi own goal.

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