Four wonderkids Arsenal lost for cheap but are worth millions – Balogun next?


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The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas and Kieran Gibbs are just some of the starlets who became regulars under former boss Arsene Wenger.

This stance has altered somewhat in recent years though, with the Gunners getting out the cheque book to seal deals for proven talents such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bernd Leno.

Matteo Guendouzi has come in and shown glimpses of his potential in the first team, while Bukayo Saka has also been a rare shining light during what has been another disappointing campaign for the Gunners.

And as they build towards a brighter future under Mikel Arteta’s stewardship, they will be looking to blood some more youngsters.

It doesn’t appear as though highly-rated academy striker Folarin Balogun will be one of them though, with the Athletic reporting that the 18-year-old forward will leave the Emirates in the next transfer window after failing to agree a new deal.

Championship promotion chasers Brentford had a £5million bid in January turned down for Balogun, whose current deal runs out in June 2021.

It seems inexcusable that the Gunners should let go of yet another young star, especially as they’ve lost four exciting youngsters over the course of the last four campaigns, with Balogun set to join that growing list.

So, what happened to the likes of Serge Gnabry, Ismael Bennacer, Donyell Malen, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide after leaving Arsenal? takes a look below…

Big things were expected from Bennacer when he joined the Gunners from Ligue 2 side AC Arles-Avignon in 2015.

However, the midfielder was unable to make the breakthrough at the Emirates – making just one first-team appearance – and subsequently joined Empoli on a permanent deal two years later.

The Gunners inserted a buy-back clause inserted into the sale, meaning they had the right to match any accepted bid for the young midfielder to re-sign him.

However, they passed up on that opportunity with Serie A giants AC Milan clinching a £14.5m deal for the Algeria international last summer.

The 22-year-old signed a five-year deal at the San Siro, with Arsenal reportedly recouping 30 per cent of that fee through a sell-on clause.

Such is his talent, Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with making a move for Bennacer, but Milan are not expected to entertain any interest in their midfielder.

Once deemed not good enough for West Bromwich Albion by Tony Pulis, his career has taken off like a rocket.

After a prolonged period of obscurity in professional football, albeit hampered by injury, the 2018/19 season was one to remember for Gnabry as he was named Bayern Munich’s player of the season in a title-winning campaign.

The 24-year-old enjoyed another productive campaign in 2019/20, scoring 19 goals and registering 13 assists in 41 appearances for Bayern as the German giants clinched an eighth successive Bundesliga title.

It all looked so promising for Gnabry early on in his Emirates career, as he was handed his Premier League debut as a teenager by none other than Arsene Wenger.

However, after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury the winger was unable to force his way back into Wenger’s plans on his return.

A miserable loan at the Hawthorns followed, where then Baggies boss Tony Pulis claimed he ‘was not at the required standard’ to compete.

“Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been for me, at the moment, at that level to play the games,” he famously said.

Not good enough to play for West Brom though🙄🙄 Congrats my bro I always knew you were the best 🌟@SergeGnabry

“Does academy football really prepare players for league football? And we’re talking about Premier League football here.

“You pick your best team, you don’t leave people out because you don’t like them, because of this, that and the other.”

After rebuilding his career at Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim, Gnabry has grabbed his big break with both hands at Bayern – and has certainly proved many people wrong in the process.

The following season he made six appearances, all in cup competitions, before being loaned to Ligue 1 side Angers.

That productive loan spell with Angers saw him return for pre-season back in north London following the completion of the 2017/28 season under Unai Emery – but he was soon shipped out of the club.

In an interview with Goal, the France Under-21 international revealed that he was told he was surplus to requirements before even getting the chance to prove his worth at the Emirates.

“It is true that I would like to speak a little less of Arsenal. I was young. It was complicated,” he said.

“There was so much competition that it was difficult to get into the coach’s line-up. He [Emery] told me that the club did not rely too much on me.

“I took a blow, but Angers were on the lookout. It was a new chance, a new beginning. The train does not pass often and I was happy to get back in the right car.”

Still only 22, Reine-Adelaide is another former Gunner who looks set for a very bright future in the game.

The midfielder joined Ligue 1 giants Lyon last summer in a deal believed to be worth in the region of £23m.

And he’s certainly shown early signs of promise, and scored two goals in 19 appearances for the club before Ligue 1 was cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Another youngster who was tipped for big things at the Emirates was Dutch forward Donyell Malen.

The 21-year-old opted to leave Arsenal for PSV Eindhoven three years ago – despite being offered a contract extension in north London.

Malen will certainly feel he was vindicated in his decision to return to his homeland, enjoying a prolific run of goalscoring form in the Eredivisie.

The exciting prospect scored 18 goals for club and country this term prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.

The only consolation for Malen is that the coronavirus pandemic put an end to Euro 2020, a tournament he was set to miss before the global health crisis halted the sporting world – with the Dutch top flight subsequently cancelled.

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