If you thought Arsenal’s problems couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong – with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now refusing to sign a new deal with the north London side.
Given the Gunners’ reliance on the Gabonese striker and his goals, that is deeply worrying news for all associated with the club. However, it’s hugely encouraging news for several teams who have been monitoring his situation at Arsenal.
Aubameyang is allegedly ’ready to quit’ north London next summer as he looks to secure Champions League football in the final years of his career, with a number of clubs hoping to capitalise.
90min takes a look at the key contenders in the race for the forward’s signature.
In the summer, there were rumours flying around that suggested Aubameyang could follow the likes of Robin van Persie north and leave Arsenal for fierce rivals Manchester United.
At the time, they were somewhat outlandish claims, but they don’t seem so absurd these days after the Red Devils’ attacking deficiencies were exposed in the early months of 2019/20.
Between August and October, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men went 12 games without scoring more than one goal in a game, demonstrating their need for reinforcements up front.
Marcus Rashford is back on form, though the Englishmen can’t carry the burden of being United’s only serious goal threat. They have the money to buy him a strike partner, and could do far worse than the electric, Premier League-proven Aubameyang.
The Spanish media have spent a considerable amount of time discussing Aubameyang’s future, and the narrative appears to be Real Madrid and Barcelona are going head-to-head for the 30-year-old.
Los Blancos may well have the advantage at this stage, having been tipped by El Desmarque to land the striker once he enters the final year of his contract, which ends in 2021.
The news outlet claim Arsenal have promised Aubameyang he can leave if he so wishes, assuming they receive an offer of around
On his day, Luis Suarez remains a phenomenal footballer. Unfortunately, those days are becoming slightly rarer. The Uruguayan is entering the twilight of his career, and his form has clearly taken a hit, with El Chiringuito reporting that Barcelona want to replace him with Aubameyang.
Intriguingly, La Blaugrana aren’t keen on waiting until the summer. Antoine Griezmann’s indifferent performances this year have worried the club’s coaching staff, meaning they could make their move in January.
According to the Tuttomercatoweb, Aubameyang has taken the fancy of Italian giants Inter, who have been keeping a watchful eye on as they prepare to lose one of the men currently leading their frontline.
Barcelona want Lautaro Martinez, and the Nerazzurri will want an equally fearsome forward to fill the Argentine’s boots.
The Catalans could decide they don’t need Aubameyang, but that may not stop Arsenal’s prized possession leaving the club. Why wouldn’t he want to join Antonio Conte at the top of Serie A?
Now, Aubameyang saying he wants to play Champions League football doesn’t actually mean he wants to play Champions League football. It’s more likely code for: “I don’t want to play for Arsenal.”
If that is the case, he wouldn’t necessarily be against the idea of upping sticks and moving to the Chinese Super League, with Shanghai SIPG reportedly offering him a £300,000-a-week contract last summer.
Even if it’s not Shanghai, Aubameyang may still end up in the Far East, having been close to agreeing mega-money moves to Guangzhou Evergrande and Tianjin Quanjian in the past.
So, does he choose a bumper pay-packet over top-level football?
There haven’t been too many rumours linking Aubameyang with a transfer to Atletico Madrid, though it wouldn’t be a bad choice were he to switch to Los Rojiblancos.
He’s practically guaranteed Champions League football at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, and Diego Simeone needs more firepower after seeing a distinct lack of goals this season.
On top of that, Atleti hitman Diego Costa is apparently looking to engineer a move to Brazilian side Flamengo, meaning there could be a vacancy for Aubameyang to fill.
As for the requisite fee, it’s not exactly a sum Madrid can’t afford. They’ve made enormous profits from sales in the last few years, and – despite spending big on Benfica’s Joao Felix – have plenty left over for the Arsenal skipper.
For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter