Marseille are hopeful of striking a deal to keep Arsenal centre-back William Saliba at the club next season.
The Gunners defender, 21, completed a £27million permanent move to the Emirates Stadium in the summer of 2019 before spending each of the last three seasons out on loan.
Spells with Saint-Etienne and Nice followed, before the France international headed to Marseille for the 2021/22 campaign.
Saliba has really shone so far this term, making an impressive 50 appearances for the French side, including 12 in the Europa League and Europa Conference League.
Against Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the season he was hailed for denying Kylian Mbappe a golden opportunity.
“He’s a top player at his position,” Marseille head coach Sampaoli said.
“We were lucky to get him on loan, it wasn’t simple. He’s great at marking, but good bringing the ball out too.
“He’s a future great of French football, he’s very good at starting plays.”
Arsenal supporters have been very encouraged by his performances with many suggesting that he may now be ready to challenge for a spot in Mikel Arteta’s side, but according to Sampaoli, the French side will be hoping to strike a deal for the player themselves.
Sampaoli said: “William’s progress is linked to his development this season and the maturity he now has and his playing time.
“He is now consistent, he’s grown up as a player.
“In relation to his situation at the club, I hope that there is a possibility for us to retain a player like him, who knows the team.
“But I don’t know if it depends on OM, William or Arsenal, I don’t know the possibilities in this case.”
Speaking in an interview earlier this year, Saliba opened the door to a potential return to Marseille, describing them as ‘his club’.
He said: “My wish is to finish the season well, to leave on a good note in case I don’t come back.
“It would be my pleasure to come back no matter what, it’s not as if I know I’m not going to come back, it’s Marseille, it’s my club.”
He added: “[Playing in] the Champions League with OM? When you see the atmosphere in the Conference League or in Ligue 1, I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry previously revealed his confusion and frustration with his former club’s handling of Saliba’s situation.
The north London club’s all-time top goalscorer questioned why the young defender was forced out of the Emirates Stadium before being given a real opportunity in the first team.
“They didn’t even let him make a mistake,” the Arsenal legend told Amazon Prime.
“He left before an error. He didn’t even have the chance to compete for his place.
“What he is doing here is extraordinary. He was rewarded with a selection for the France team.
“At the moment, he belongs to Arsenal, I don’t know where he will end up. We have seen that it was a little difficult for him to express himself on the subject.
“What I know is that he could have been in the Arsenal group. I am not Mikel Arteta, but I found it difficult for him. Anyway, he responded well and that’s the most important thing.”
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