Arsenal are undoubtedly having a season to remember. Mikel Arteta’s side are enjoying their most prolific season in decades, as they seem primed to win their first Premier League title since the 2003/04 invincible season.
It almost seems like nothing can go wrong for the Gunners this season. They’ve won all but three of their 19 Premier League games and seen their closest title challenges Man City and Newcastle United drop points frequently.
With a five-point lead over the second-place City side (with a game in hand), it’s the Gunners’ title to lose.
But it’s not only the squad at Colney that are enjoying euphoria this season. Even their loanees are seeing everything go right for them.
This definitely counts for their young forward Folarin Balogun, who has taken Ligue 1 by storm since joining Stade Reims in the summer.
The 20-year-old forward thrilled fans with an amazing 20-minute hattrick in Reims’ 4-2 win over Lorient in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, helping keep his side unbeaten under young head coach William Still. Amid all the gaga over the young striker, we look at his story so far.
Is Folarin Balogun English or American?
Balogun started his football journey at a very young age and joined Arsenal’s youth academy as an eight-year-old. He has been a part of the club since 2008, playing at a youth level for them for 12 years before making his senior debut for the Gunners in 2020.
There is a seeming war going on between the fans of the England national team as well as the USMNT about where Balogun’s allegiances should lie.
The forward was actually born in New York City before his family emigrated to England when he was still two years old.
As he was born in the USA, he has the chance to represent the USMNT if needed. Balogun has actually had a very interesting international career.
He started out to play for England’s U17 side, before suddenly changing his allegiance to play a couple of games for the United States U18 Men’s team.
He played in four of USMNT U18’s Václav Ježek Youth Tournament in 2018 and scored two goals. But he then changed his stance again, playing for England’s U20 and U21 sides in recent years. In 13 appearances for England U21, he’s also scored 7 goals.
Where are Folarin Balogun’s parents from?
Balogun is born to Nigerian parents, with both his mum and dad being from the African country. As a result, the 21-year-old actually has a variety of choices when it comes to representing a country at the international level.
He could play for England – whom he has mostly represented at the junior level. Balogun can play for the USA as he was born in New York City. Then again, he can also play for the Nigeria national team because of his link to his Nigerian parents.
He had spoken about this in a past interview, saying: “I haven’t yet declared who I will commit to internationally. I was born in New York, so can play for the USA. My parents were born in Nigeria and I have been in England since I was two years old, so I can play for both those countries too!
“I have several youth caps playing for England and I enjoy their style of play which is similar to Arsenal’s. I will be discussing matters with my parents and will then decide.”
Representing a nation is a major event in the career of any footballer – so Balogun can’t be blamed for taking his time into deciding which nation he wants to represent – knowing all three countries gave something special to him in his life and enabled him to become what he is today.
Are Folarin and Leon Balogun related?
Some fans have speculated that Folarin might have a brother who is also a professional footballer.
Indeed, the Arsenal loanee has been linked to being related to QPR defender Leon Balogun, who has played for the likes of Rangers and Brighton in the past. He’s also played for the Nigeria national team in his career.
In reality, both are not related at all. Interestingly, Leon’s father is a Nigerian – which is where the similar surnames might come from.
Folarin actually addressed this misconception in an interview, saying: “Yes, Leon Balogun! We’re not related but I’ve played against him before! It was in a pre-season friendly between Arsenal and Rangers a little over a year ago.
“By the way, we both had the number 26 so there were two Balogun number 26 shirts on the pitch [laughs]. After the game, we had a little chat together. I think he’s playing for Queens Park Rangers this season.”
How many goals has Folarin Balogun scored for Reims?
Balogun has been running riot in Ligue 1 since joining Reims and seems to have adapted to his new environment really well. He is currently leading the goal-scoring charts in Ligue 1, having scored 14 goals for the mid-table side.
That includes the hattrick against Lorient, which helped him move clear of the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the scoring charts.
Not just that, but Balogun has also outscored World Champion Lionel Messi as well as former Arsenal teammate in the French top division.
In total, Balogun has scored 15 goals and provided two assists in only 21 appearances for Reims this season.
Where does Folarin Balogun stand in the European Golden Shoe race?
Balogun might be sitting comfortably on top of the Ligue 1 Golden Boot charts, but he is still quite behind the European Golden Shoe race. Unfortunately for him, the ultimate goal machine aka Erling Haaland is miles ahead of everyone else in that race.
Haaland has scored 25 goals in the Premier League already for the Citizens and is a major front-runner to win the European Golden Shoe. Balogun might not be in the running for that, but his heroics in a top-5 league has been nothing short of impressive.
He has as many goals as Robert Lewandowski this season and more than the current Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema.
Mikel Arteta might already have two quality no.9 options in Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah right now – but seeing Balogun’s form this season and William Saliba’s impact this season after coming away from Ligue 1 – he might be making plans of carving a place for the young forward in his squad next season.