Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is less than a month from entering the final year of his Arsenal deal. Club captain, top scorer and the lynchpin of the side – it leaves us in something of a pickle.
Contract negotiations that began during the Emery era fell apart as the Spaniard’s side imploded from April 2019 onwards. Champions League football was supposed to be the carrot we used to persuade Auba to stay and also the most viable means of funding his salary increase.
After defeat in last season’s Europa League final our hand was weakened considerably and it continued to get weaker and weaker with each passing day.
While Mikel Arteta went public with his desire to keep the player, he can’t have been oblivious to the obstacles in the club’s path. Barcelona circled in January and then we crashed out of Europe.
The coronavirus pandemic has complicated matters for both parties.
Arsenal have gone cap in hand to the first team squad asking them to take pay cuts and it’s forecast that a full season of football behind closed doors could see us lose over £140 million. How do you offer a player an attractive pay increase against such a backdrop? You probably don’t.
It’s also a head-scratcher for Aubameyang too. Very few clubs will come out of the current situation unscathed and most, even the biggest in Europe, will use the situation to force down prices in salary talks. Auba might get lucky and find a generous benefactor willing to lavish him with a pay rise but it’s more likely that courting clubs will point to him being 31 and go the other way. In some cases, their prestige will work to their advantage. You can imagine them asking if he wants to win trophies / play Champions League football or buy more cars.
Last summer, Arsenal’s football executive committee said they would look to sell players stalling on new deals to prevent them leaving for free. If Aubameyang doesn’t think the time is right for a move – perhaps the stability of a familiar environment is bearable for another 12 months? – then he could well test that stance. Leaving on a free in 2021 just as the transfer market emerges from the shadow of the pandemic could be more attractive, even if it means another season in the Europa League.
Raul and Edu would be pretty helpless to stop that. Just look at the Ozil situation. Their next best option might be to get him to agree to a heavily-incentivised short-term extension in the hope he helps us achieve Champions League football. Then we could look to sell next summer. But when do you make that approach? The season isn’t over and an upturn on the pitch could make talks a bit easier.
With so much unclear, it’s probably why there are conflicting reports doing the rounds about us re-opening negotiations. Yesterday, L’Equipe said we were working on a deal. Julien Laurens, writing for ESPN, was quick to rebut the suggestion citing sources inside the club.
Taking to Instagram yesterday, Aubameyang wrote: “Don’t listen [to] ’em, listen music better.”
Make of that what you will.