France boss Didier Deschamps makes decision on William Saliba ahead of Euro 2024

Arsenal star William Saliba is battling for a place in France’s starting XI (Picture: Getty)

Didier Deschamps will overlook William Saliba and start with a centre-back pairing of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate for France’s Euro 2024 opener against Austria.

Saliba, 21, enjoyed a magnificent Premier League campaign alongside Gabriel Magalhaes at centre-half as Arsenal ended the season with the best defensive record in the division.

But Saliba is yet to establish himself as a regular starter at international level, with Deschamps favouring Upamecano and Konate and openly criticising the Arsenal man for aspects of the youngster’s game he ‘does not like’.

Saliba has, though, been included in France’s 26-man squad for this summer’s European Championships and was handed a rare start in Les Blues’ warm-up game against Canada last weekend.

The former Saint-Etienne man proved an assured presence at the back alongside Upamecano and came away from the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux with the man-of-the-match award after the sides’ goalless draw.

He also played 45 minutes of of France’s previous clash with Luxembourg, contributing to a clean sheet as Deschamps’ men ran out 3-0 winners at the Stade Saint-Symphorien.

However, Le Parisien suggest that Saliba’s impressive performances will not be enough to earn him a starting spot for France’s Group D opener against Austria on Monday evening.

Saliba is yet to fully win over Deschamps (Picture: Getty)

It appears Saliba will have to settle for a place on the substitutes bench as France – European champions in 1984 and 2000 – look to get their campaign off to the perfect start in Dusseldorf.

Bayern Munich’s Upamecano and Liverpool’s Konate, capped 20 and 16 times respectively, are expected to be given the nod in front of AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

The report claims that Saliba is considered Deschamps’ third-choice centre-back and would be the first player called upon should Upamecano or Konate pick up an injury at the tournament.

The Frenchman shone at the back for Arsenal last season (Picture: Getty)

Former France World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf has been critical of Deschamps’ handling of Saliba, recently admitting that he ‘didn’t understand’ why the Arsenal defender was being snubbed.

Asked to identify France’s weakest area ahead of the Euros, he told ESPN: ‘I would say defence right now. It used to be strong. But it’s like Didier Deschamps is wondering who is the best duo at centre-back.

‘He tried something else [for France’s recent defeat to Germany].

‘In the middle of the park I would say we have a list of fantastic players, how they are going to match together is going to be a question mark but the talent is there. When you see the names of the players in the middle of the park for France, it’s crazy.

‘Didier has to find the right four players to play as defenders. When he does so, we will be very strong.’

When it was suggested that Saliba was France’s strongest defender, Leboeuf replied: ‘Yeah, I agree.

‘That’s a real question for me. I don’t understand why Saliba isn’t playing all the time.

‘He showed to the world that he is the best defender in the world right now, well, the best French defender right now playing for a big club.

‘I don’t know why he’s not playing there. He’s absolutely tremendous. He should deserve the chance to show it at that level.’

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