Arsenal may have just announced that one of their academy stars has committed his long-term future to the club, but it’s not all rosy in regards to Folarin Balogun.
The young goal machine has, as of yet, failed to agree to an extension on his existing deal, with the likely outcome being that he will depart in the summer as he enters the final 12 months of his current contract.
Having turned down bids for the 18-year-old in the past, with an exit now looming, clubs have been put on red alert as they look to swoop in and snatch the starlet from under Mikel Arteta’s nose.
Well, not quite, as I’m sure he’s very well aware, but it’s hardly ideal considering just how highly thought of this striker is.
Wait, what’s that? You don’t know anything about him? No worries, friends, we’ve got you covered.
Does living two years in New York City count?
Probably not, but it’s where Balogun was born back in 2001. Oh, and his middle name is Jerry, one of the single most iconic names in sitcom history relating to the ‘city that never sleeps’.
No, doesn’t cut it? Fine. We’ll move on.
First plying his trade with Sunday League side Aldersbrook, Balogun took part in trials across London, most notably with Tottenham. Kind of like a reverse Harry Kane, if you will.
While all the clubs he trialed at saw promise, Balogun eventually opted to join Arsenal at the age of ten, and the rest is history.
It would seem that it’s about to be the end of this particular chapter in history, though.
A rather successful day Arsenal in an otherwise dismal season was also the closest Balogun came to making his first team debut. A grim day for Nottingham Forest in the third round of the EFL Cup back in 2019 saw Balogun make the bench, but he ended up as nothing more than a spectator as the Gunners romped to a 5-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.
The primary reason for Balogun’s desire to leave the club has been a lack of opportunities in the senior setup, and failing to earn a single minute in the EFL Cup clearly didn’t sit well.
You do wonder why though, considering he does seem to love scoring…
Playing for the Under-18s last season, Balogun hit a whopping 28 goals in 28 matches across all youth competitions, playing a pivotal role in the Gunners winning the Under-18s Premier League title. This included two hat-tricks and another four-goal haul in a superb league campaign.
Such was his form that he was promoted to the Under-23s side for the current campaign, and his fine goalscoring from didn’t let up despite the jump up in quality.
This time around, he’s scored ten goals and notched a further four assists in 15 appearances in Premier League 2.
Not in the ‘over six foot, hangs around the penalty box and scores 15 headers a season’ way, but more in the ‘rarely ever drifts wide and dominates the centre-backs’ manner.
He plays almost solely through the middle, using his wicked pace to play on the shoulder and unnerve defenders. He also boasts neat close control and smart movement, while his skill has been on show throughout his youth career with some mazy solo goals.
Helpful to that is his ability to play with either foot. As seen with the emergence of Mason Greenwood, who is more than adept on either side, having this trait can’t be understated. It’s rare, and it’s highly beneficial.
Having featured both for the USA and England at Under-18 level, there may be a scramble similar to the one surrounding his club deal if he continues to develop at the rate he’s doing.
Alongside those nations, Balogun is eligible for Nigeria, so who manages to convince him to ply his trade for their nation could be an interesting development.
Having previously cited Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as one of his role models, the young striker received praise from the man himself in 2019. A rather welcome lauding, if you ask me.
It hasn’t stopped there, though. Reiss Nelson likened him to ‘a young Eddie Nketiah up front because he gets into good positions and always scores goals’. Perhaps not on an Aubameyang level, but nonetheless, nice to hear from teammates.