Folarin Balogun and his future have been the talk of the summer for Arsenal fans after an excellent loan campaign in Ligue 1.
The striker, who recently became the spearhead of the USMNT attack, scored an impressive 22 goals and grabbed 3 assists during his temporary spell at Stade des Reims last season, and began to demonstrate the massive talent that had been evident to those watching his development in the Arsenal academy.
Now, he is seemingly certain to leave the club on a permanent basis, having already ruled out another loan.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen. What I can say is that I definitely won’t go on loan again”, he explained after scoring for the US national team back in June.
So how much is he worth, and what can Arsenal hope to get for him? The reality may well be a far cry from what many Arsenal fans feel fair.
How much should a 22-goal-striker be worth?
In a summer where strikers are more in demand than ever, Balogun’s case is a curious one. Rasmus Hojlund, who managed less than half as many goals as Arsenal’s loanee last season, commanded a massive £75m fee. Meanwhile, Goncalo Ramos is set to move to Paris Saint Germain in a deal worth 80m euros having found the net 19 times in Portugal’s most recent top-flight campaign.
Of the nine strikers to score as many or more than Balogun managed last season, Tottenham’s Harry Kane is being valued at £100m and Victor Osimhen at 200m euros.
Looking away from the Premier League and Saudi Pro League, however, is a different story.
Perhaps most indicative of Balogun’s final price is Lois Openda, who managed 21 goals for fellow Ligue 1 side Lens last season and has joined RB Leipzig for a fee of £39m (a club record for the German side).
Meanwhile, teenage striker Elye Wahi (who found the net 19 times for Montpellier last season) is being linked with a £25m move away this summer.
Balogun’s final price may lie between the two.
What is denting Balogun’s worth?
Several things, both in and out of Arsenal’s control.
First and perhaps most important is the buying market. With a sale abroad seemingly preferable, they can’t rely on any of the inflated Premier League price tags and the fact that Balogun counts as a homegrown player becomes irrelevant.
Excluding the aformentioned Openda and the Saudi Pro League, the only deals completed for a fee above 30m euros have been by PSG (Manuel Ugarte) and Real Madrid (Jude Bellingham), while Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan have both baulked at a 40m euro fee for Romelu Lukaku already this summer.
Another complication is any potential future that Arsenal see in Balogun. Should they wish to include a buy-back clause, they may be forced to take a cut on their initial asking price, while a hefty sell-on fee could have the same effect.
With the likes of Atalanta and RB Leipzig having already re-invested the massive sums they have taken in from sales on new strikers, the market outside the Premier League looks bleak should Arsenal stick to their £50m valuation.
What alternatives are there?
Leaving on loan or staying at the club could theoretically be options for Balogun. However, he has already ruled out another loan and staying as a third-choice striker would be harmful to just about everyone involved.
The 22-year-old’s value is at a career-high (for now) and, under contract until 2025, he would have just 12 months left on his contract next summer and could use that to lower his eventual fee.
Mikel Arteta’s side may well have to settle for far less up-front this summer, but rely on potential sell-on and buy-back clauses to ensure that they get what they perceive as fair value for a player that seemingly has no immediate future in north London.