Some of the clubs targetting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are considering whether to wait until the summer of 2021 in the hopes of snaring the Arsenal striker on a free transfer.
Aubameyang is out of contract with Arsenal at the end of next season and so far the club’s efforts to tie their talismanic forward to a new deal have been in vain with negotiations having stalled last summer.
Arsenal still hope to convince Aubameyang to stay but if they fail to reach an agreement between now and the end of the season they face the dilemma of allowing him to depart for a limited transfer fee or keeping him, running the risk that he may leave for nothing in the summer of 2021.
Aubameyang would not be short of suitors as a free agent next summer and sources have indicated that several of Europe’s top clubs would give more serious consideration to signing him even as he approaches his 32nd birthday next summer rather than pay Arsenal a fee to secure him a year earlier.
The Gunners had valued Aubameyang at around the £50million mark in January but few clubs, if any, can afford to come anywhere near that figure in light of the devastating effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on football’s finances.
Barcelona have long been among Aubameyang’s leading admirers but they shied away from spending heavily on the Gabon striker in January and are said to be eyeing Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez as their first choice striker.
Paris Saint-Germain were also credited with an interest in Aubameyang but instead spent £45million on making Mauro Icardi’s loan move from Inter Milan permanent. Reports in Italy will use just under half that money to sign midfielder Stefano Sensi after an impressive loan.
Aubameyang himself has long spoken of the pull of Real Madrid but their long-term transfer focus appears to be elsewhere with interest in the likes of Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe indicating their preference for adding younger superstars.
None of the above clubs would be prepared to offer the same fees for Aubameyang they might once have for a player in the final year of his contract, a reality which may ultimately convince Arsenal to hold on to their top scorer rather than sell him on the cheap.
Mikel Arteta is acutely aware that Aubameyang’s goals could be crucial to firing Arsenal back into the Champions League this season or next. Getting back to Europe’s top club competition is worth far more financially – at least £70million – to the Gunners than any fee they could hope to earn from the sale of their top striker.
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Equally that transfer fee may not go far towards covering the cost of replacing Aubameyang. Arsenal have identified several long-term successors to their club captain, including Jonathan David of Gent and Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard, but for the time being valuations across the European game remain in flux.
Though their failure to tie Aubameyang to a new contract is undoubtedly a cause for concern Arsenal have not given up on agreeing new terms. The 30-year-old is settled in London and has cut a happier figure on and off the pitch since Arteta’s appointment.
When he comes to make his decision on whether to extend his contract, Aubameyang will have to balance that with whether he believes Arsenal can compete for Champions League qualification and silverware.