Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may stay at Arsenal for next season – but with the view to quitting the Emirates in the summer of 2021 to pocket a substantial signing-on bonus from any new club. That’s according to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, who was speaking to the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust in a Zoom call on Wednesday night.
Aubameyang’s future has been a popular topic for some time, with it completely up in the air whether or not the Gabon international will be at the club next term.
The 30-year-old’s current contract with the Gunners expires in June 2021 and there has been no sign of him extending his stay in north London.
The former Borussia Dortmund frontman is widely understood to be settled and happy in the English capital but is believed to want a significant pay rise to turn down attention from clubs across Europe – which Arsenal cannot afford in the current climate.
Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea are among the clubs said to have genuine interest in signing Aubameyang this summer.
With his contract situation, it has been mooted that Arsenal may have to sell Aubameyang for as little as £30million.
But according to Ornstein, there is even a chance that Arsenal take a huge gamble by keeping their top-scoring striker – who has 20 goals across all competitions this term – into the final year of his deal.
It is uncertain how that would go down with Arsenal fans, given it would directly contrast the new hardline approach the club’s hierarchy said they would take with players.
On the one hand, keeping Aubameyang would significantly boost Mikel Arteta’s hopes of finishing in the top four next season – which would then boost the funds available to the Spaniard in the transfer market in the summer of 2021.
Especially so, because if the current Premier League campaign is declared and Arsenal finish where they currently sit in the table, in ninth, they will not have Europa League football to play next season.
That would leave Arteta’s squad with just domestic football to contend with, increasing their chances of being able to play at their peak level week-in, week-out in the league in search of Champions League qualification.
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But financially, it would be a blow for Arsenal to lose their most valuable player for nothing – having only lost Aaron Ramsey on a free last year.
It would also see the Londoners go against the policy that head of football Raul Sanllehi insisted in late 2018 that Arsenal would adhere to.
Sanllehi declared that the club would not allowed key players to run down their contracts into their final 12 months.
But with the coronavirus pandemic having greatly disrupted European football, there is no certainty that a team will pay what Arsenal want for Aubameyang.
The summer window is expected to be far quieter than usual, with the bulk of deals done set to be swaps or part-exchanges.
A few years ago, Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger revealed why he believes there will continue to be an increase in free transfers.
“I think in the future, you will see it more and more. Why? Because the transfers are so high, even for normal players.
“You will see more and more players going into the final year of the contract because no club will want to pay the amount demanded… in the next 10 years, it will become usual.
“I think the performance on the day does not depend on the length of the contract, if that was true we would sign everyone for 20 years and be happy.”
He added last year ago, referencing why Aaron Ramsey left Arsenal for Juventus: “It’s very simple: the transfer market is so big now that they think ‘if I run out my contract, I will not get the whole [outlay of the] transfer [but] I get the big part of it’.
“Adding that to inflation means that the financial incentive for a player is to run out his contract. You’ll see that more and more, because a good player today [costs] between £50 and 100 million.
“So, the player will not be bought for that price. His interest is to run the contract down and say to the club who wants to buy him: ‘okay, I don’t want 50 [million], but I want a part of it’.”
And with the coronavirus having thrown the game into greater uncertainty, it appears Arsenal are no closer to reaching a conclusion as to what will happen with Aubameyang – though talk of him staying has increased in recent days.
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