After struggling to make much of an impact on loan at Middlesbrough for the second half of last season, it was crucial for Arsenal to get Folarin Balogun’s next move right, and they certainly did just that. At the time, choosing France as the destination was viewed as a risk by some, however, Reims has since emerged as the perfect fit for a player who has rediscovered his goalscoring prowess.
As it stands, Balogun is the Ligue 1 top scorer after bagging his fifteenth league goal on Sunday, that’s five more than Lionel Messi (10) and two more than Kylian Mbappe (13). His performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with both Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and most recently manager Mikel Arteta expressing their delight over his progress.
“So happy for him,” Arteta said last week. “He’s a boy with a really clear idea of what he wants to do in his career. Really ambitious, really committed and he’s really brave. We discussed before whether it was the right place to go and other choices that he had. He was so convinced and I’m really happy for him because he deserves what he’s getting.
“He’s got something special. That’s why we gave him a long-term contract and have faith in him, and give him the long period that he’s having now, because the period he’s having now is different to the one before at Middlesbrough. The plan is that he finishes his period there, assess the situation where he is, where we are, then sit down and plan the next chapter in his developing career.”
Choosing his next step upon returning to Arsenal is not the only decision that Balogun will face, however, as speculation continues to mount over his long-term future at international level. Although he currently represents England Under-21s, the New York City-born striker has previously played for the US Under-18s and is also eligible for Nigeria through family roots. Speaking to L’Equipe in October last year, Balogun said that he would consider all three countries for his international career.
“Just like my future at club level, I am not closing any doors regarding international selection,” Balogun explained. “All options remain open. Above everything, I feel English, but I also have an American side, because I have family in New York and I love going there. I have my grandmother and cousins in Lagos, even if I haven’t been there since I was very young. My mother sometimes speaks to me in Yoruba and it is important to me,” he added.
Balogun may be keeping an open mind but fans in America are doing their bit to convince him to choose the USMNT over anyone else. Several comments under his latest posts on Twitter include emojis of the United States flag, as well as pleas for him to make the switch back to US colours. ‘Bring it home in 2026 on home soil, we love ya’, one supporter replied. Another said: ‘The US of A needs you, become a star for your country young man.’
Which country Balogun opts for remains to be seen. For now though, his focus will be on Reims with one eye on the Ligue 1 golden boot, a trophy he has a genuine chance of winning should he maintain his fine goalscoring form in the coming months.
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