Arsenal's star Maitland-Niles, up for sale for £30m, joined Gunners at six but could leave on verge of breakthrough

IT looks like it's all over for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Arsenal.

The midfielder-turned-defender endured a torrid time with the Gunners when Mikel Arteta first arrived at the club.

Out of favour, he was left out the team for reportedly turning up late to training on a number of occasions.

But it appeared he had won back his manager's faith, earning a spot in the Fa Cup final startling line-up against Chelsea, and starring in a 2-1 win.

Now, the 22-year-old is said to be surplus to requirements at the Emirates, with a £30million price tag on his head.

And that has alerted Tottenham to his availability, who could swoop to pinch the speedy star.

His career so far has had its ups and downs.


Born in Ilford, Maitland-Niles was mostly raised by single mother, Jules.

"There were times their dad would help out, like playing with the kids," she later told ViralRealLife.

"There were also times when he wasn't helping out in the right ways – like providing food.

"Obviously, you can't eat a pair of football boots."

Ainsley's passion for football took centre stage, and he soon joined Arsenal's academy aged six.

He dedicated his whole time to the club, slowly rising through the ranks and was called the best player in his age group by his youth coaches, according to his mum.

In December, 2014 Maitland-Niles signed his first professional contract, but there was drama around the corner.


Jules became synonymous to Arsenal staff, but for all the wrong reasons.

In 2015, she allegedly got into a furious bust-up with Arsenal's former chief negotiator Dick Law at their London Colney training ground, and was said to have acted violent towards him after seeking reassurances about his future.

She was arrested and later released without charge.

Another time, while watching a then 17-year-old Maitland Niles in an Under-23 game, she grew animated on the sidelines and threatened to drag her son off the pitch.

The club had seen enough, and she was banned from the training ground.


On the pitch, things were starting to look up for Maitland-Niles.

After making his debut aged 17 against Galatasaray in a Champions League match, a promising future beckoned.

He was the second youngest player to appear in the competition for the Gunners, behind Jack Wilshere, and was left beaming with pride at his breakthrough.

"I want to thank my family and God mostly for putting me here," he told Arsenal's website.

When he was asked what he would do with his shirt from his first game, he revealed: "I think I'll frame it and give it to my mum."


In his early days at youth team level, and during a loan spell at Ipswich Town during the 2015-16 season, Maitland-Niles played as a winger.

Then Town manager Mick McCarthy raved about the exciting talent.

He said: “He’s an outstanding player. If he doesn’t end up being outstanding for Arsenal I’ll be very surprised."

But manager Arsene Wenger saw his attributes differently.

“His best position is central defensive midfielder," the legendary French boss said.

"He has great quality, he can steal the ball without making fouls… I think he is ready to play.”


Versatility, most probably, ended up becoming a hindrance for Maitland-Niles.

When injuries forced Wenger and then Unai Emery to field Maitland-Niles at both left-back and right-back, his development in midfield was put on hold.

“I’m not a defender.” he said before the Premier League encounter against Aston Villa last year.

“It’s not where I would choose to put myself in the team.”

Stepping in for Hector Bellerin, he had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt, was run ragged, until he was dismissed for a second yellow card four minutes before half-time.


When Arteta took over the reigns at Arsenal, Maitland-Niles found himself warming up the bench with Bellerin's return.

His manager threw down the gauntlet to him.

“(He has to) Show me every day in training that he wants it more than anyone else; he wants to play for this club and fight for his place,” Arteta said.

But that brought an adverse reaction to the star, who was reportedly late for training one too many times for the strict boss, who demands a professional attitude from his players.

When lockdown ended, it appeared that Maitland-Niles' days at the club were numbered.

However, as football often does, a reprieve was around the corner.

A brilliant performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final win followed by another solid display against Watford meant he played himself into the FA Cup final starting eleven.

And his swashbuckling runs, getting in-behind the Blues defence, were a constant threat for Frank Lampard's team.

Now, back in favour, the decision to sell Maitland-Niles is a strange one.

But with 55 non-playing staff cut as the coronavirus pandemic hits Arsenal's revenue, it's needs-must for the Premier League giants.

And Maitland-Niles, it appears, is the sacrifice.

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