After initial links earlier in the week, it looks like Arsenal and USMNT starlet Folarin Balogun is going to be making the switch to Monaco to play at the Stade Louis II for the foreseeable future.
Whilst there has been Premier League interest in securing Balogun’s services this summer, notably from Chelsea, Tottenham, Fulham and West Ham United, Les Monégasques have surged to the front of the queue, with reports of a £38m bid being accepted in North London.
Talks were reported to be taking place on Wednesday, and appeared to reach some sort of conclusion on Thursday night, with Fabrice Hawkins reporting that the two clubs were close to an accord.
Journalist Rudy Galetti has stated on Twitter that medical tests have already been booked for Balogun in Monaco, suggesting there is supreme confidence in the Monaco camp that they have secured their man.
Whilst there are some final payment terms to thrash out, the general consensus is that Balogun is going to remain playing in red and white next season, but in the Principality of Monaco, rather than North London.
So why are Monaco signing Flo Balogun?
Experience in France
Balogun spent last season on loan at Stade Reims in Ligue 1, where he exploded into life. After hitting three goals in his first three league appearances for Reims, he became an ever-present in a team that became the talk of European football because of coach Will Still.
A team that many had tipped to struggle briefly challenged for European football, and ended up finishing safely midtable. They were powered by goals from Balogun, who struck 21 times in 37 games, contributing 46% of the team’s league goals.
Safe to say that Balogun’s reputation was growing, something displayed further in the fee that Monaco have reportedly coughed up to make him a permanent fixture at the Stade Louis II.
That experience in Ligue 1 will have enticed many to take a gamble on Balogun, but the fact he will be returning to a league where he has already had success will no doubt be a factor in why this move has appealed to the Brooklyn-born 22-year-old.
An elite youth partnership?
Balogun will be entering a dressing-room with no shortage of competition, but one that offers real opportunities for growth and progression. He will get the chance to learn from and play with club captain Wissam Ben Yedder, who has struck 85 times in 134 league games for Monaco since returning to Ligue 1 from Sevilla in 2019.
The Frenchman is a prodigiously talented goalscorer, and has delighted the Monegasque fans with his consistency and strike-rate in the five full seasons at the club. Ben Yedder is showing no signs of slowing down, either, with three goals in the first two games of this campaign.
But longer term, the plan might well be to pair Balogun with Monaco’s new teenage starboy, Eliesse Ben Seghir, who has come through the ranks of the academy, and is widely seen as one of the most talented young forwards in France.
Whilst it might not be this season, at some point 33-year-old Ben Yedder is going to start slowing down, but in bringing in Balogun, and with Ben Seghir already peeking his head above the parapet, Monaco know their strike force will be in good hands.
Interestingly, whereas Monaco have played with a 4-4-2 in recent years, with Ben Yedder often partnered by the currently injured Breel Embolo or since-departed Kevin Volland up top, new coach Adi Hütter has started this season with a 3-4-2-1 formation.
Whether Balogun could slot in as one of the two behind the striker will be something to keep an eye on this season, although it’s not our of the question that the formation might change to a 3-4-1-2 to accommodate two strikers, given the depth that would be at Hütter’s disposal in the centre-forward position.
The Principality talent factory
Balogun will also have taken into account that Monaco have an incredible history of giving young players minutes and improving them before selling them on at a massive profit.
In the last five years alone, they have sold Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid for €80m, Axel Disasi and Benoit Badiashile to Chelsea for €45m and €38m respectively, Youri Tielemans to Leicester for €45m, Thomas Lemar to Atletico Madrid for €72m, Fabinho to Liverpool for €45m, and of course, Kylian Mbappé to PSG for €180m.
They have also seen the likes of Bernardo Silva, Allan Saint-Maximin, João Moutinho, Anthony Martial, Layvin Kurzawa, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Yannick Carrasco, Radamel Falcao, Lucas Ocampos and James Rodriguez pass through the club in the last decade.
In short, this is a talent factory, where young stars go to make their name, and often earn a move to the biggest clubs in the game off the back of it. Balogun, as someone who is moving to prove a point that he deserves to be starting games and doing well at the very top level, could arguably not be moving to a better club in his desired path to superstardom.
Chelsea’s loss, Monaco’s gain, Arsenal’s delight
Earlier in the week, it was reported that Chelsea were set to make a move for Balogun’s services. It made plenty of sense – Balogun would have fitted into Mauricio Pochettino’s new look side like a glove, but ultimately, it’s easy to see why Arsenal would much prefer any move to be away from the capital, and even the Premier League.
Selling to a direct rival is never easy, and whilst Arsenal accepted that Balogun’s desire for first-team football meant that he was never going to stay and be third-choice behind Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah, a move across London to Chelsea would have been fraught with worries and complications.
Monaco’s gain in seemingly getting their man will be a blow to Chelsea, but more than that, it will be a massive relief to the Arsenal hierarchy.