In the winter of 2018, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s antics at Borussia Dortmund helped force his move to London, where he joined Arsenal. Four years later, to this day, the Gabonese international has used those same tactics to land at Spanish giants Barcelona.
For most of transfer deadline day, there didn’t seem to be any buyers for Aubameyang, who had fallen out of favor with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and whose performances in the 2021-22 season didn’t seem to justify his hefty contract. (four goals in 14 Premier League appearances).
But late on January 31, photos surfaced of Aubameyang walking through the corridors of the Barcelona offices with club president Joan Laporta, and then signing documents inside the club offices.
A deal with Barcelona is expected to be formally announced on Tuesday and Arsenal have reportedly already terminated his contract. Teams can sign free agents outside of transfer windows as long as a transfer is not required.
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– Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 1, 2022
🚨 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang #Deadline The transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona is a fact. Documentation completed going through systems prior to formal announcements. 32 year old leaves #AFC with 92 goals in 163 games and one FA Cup win @TheAthleticUK #FC Barcelona https://t.co/qzZQp9pok8
—David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) January 31, 2022
The striker was already spotted training with his new Barcelona teammates before his move was formally announced (see Aubameyang in the background in the photo below):
Aubemeyang did enter this morning with his teammates. He placed himself under Xavi’s orders despite not having been officially announced yet. He was very close to Dembélé throughout the morning #fcblive pic.twitter.com/OKPmQRMXVf
– Toni Juanmartí (@tjuanmarti) February 1, 2022
How Aubameyang landed in Barcelona for free
Twice already Aubameyang’s exit strategy has worked for him. Other players (and clubs) will surely have already noticed.
After Aubameyang burst onto the European scene with Dortmund, he began thinking about signing for Arsenal in the Premier League. Frustrated that the German side blocked his preferred destination, he began to have problems with the punctuality of team functions and other unauthorized travel.
It got to a point where Dortmund had no choice but to sell the disgruntled player, and he ended up dressed in Arsenal red, earning big salaries and eventually playing in the Premier League.
Four years, 92 goals and zero Champions League appearances later, it’s a case of déjà vu. It all started in March 2021 when Aubameyang was excluded from the North London derby squad for “disciplinary reasons”. Then, in December, the Gabonese international returned to Arsenal late from a trip to France, and was banished from the squad and stripped of the captaincy.
Things between Aubameyang and Arsenal had been simmering for some time. His form had dropped significantly this season, and with a contract due to expire in June 2023 and no extension secured, things went downhill and fast once Arteta put the 32-year-old out of the game.
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Aubameyang departed for the Africa Cup of Nations, only to be sidelined by COVID-19 after attending a party in Dubai en route to Cameroon for the tournament. He would leave Africa without making a single appearance, officially due to heart irregularities discovered by tournament medical staff, but rumors spread that he was sent home again for that phrase. “disciplinary reasons”. Arsenal stuck to the official story.
There was no turning back at Arsenal. Only a back-and-forth Deadline Day saga befitting Aubameyang’s career path stood between him and a move to Barcelona, eventually agreeing to a deal on a free transfer that would relieve Arsenal of their high wage bill. reported to have amounted to $427,000 per week.
Now, Aubameyang is Barcelona’s problem.
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While the player has been painted as a villain during both exits from the club, he leaves each stop for another who has arguably made a step forward (although he will take a big pay cut by joining cash-strapped Barcelona).
Leaving Dortmund, he joined Arsenal, who at the time were perennial contenders for the Champions League and Premier League title. Now, he is leaving a spiraling Arsenal for Barcelona, a club that is not without its problems but remains one of the biggest brands in the world and one that is expected to bounce back quickly.
Aubameyang is in the descending half of his career, there is no doubt about that. At 32 years old and with just four goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season before the troubles began, Barcelona would do well to see Aubameyang return to his early Arsenal form as he displayed a beautiful attacking flow. and a poisonous shot in front of the net. He has a fresh start to do just that, but “disciplinary issues” will always hang over his head like a dark cloud, ready to rain down on the Barcelona parade.
Because it certainly hasn’t rained much at the Aubameyang parade so far. For the striker who burns bridges at every turn, the end justifies the means.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.