As the interested parties hover over the availability of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the most prominent suitors Real Madrid have supposedly set Arsenal a strict deadline to decide whether they will let their star striker leave.
The idea of Arsenal losing their top goalscorer for last season – and their runaway leader this term – is a thought sure to send shudders down supporters’ spines, but with the financial strain at the club at its overly-stretched limit, there is every chance their hand may be forced.
Mikel Arteta has identified the areas of his squad that need strengthening, but he’s being forced to hold his house together with Poundland glue and reused tape. 90min has already revealed that free transfers will be the port of call for Arsenal this term, as there is precious little propping up the bank balance that will allow him to act otherwise.
That is, of course, unless there is a significant cash injection. A squad that has been assembled with players who offer little to no sell-on value, or are young talents the club plan to cling on to, means there is one standout asset that could accrue a decent fee.
Given the latest murmurs from The Mirror, it appears as if the club are aware of their needs moving forward, even if it means selling their captain. This is built on from what 90min has previously said, in which the Gunners are shelving contract talks for the time being for the player with 13 months of his contract left to run – and that a sale ahead of next season is a possibility as the coronavirus takes a major hit on the club’s economy.
While there has yet to be a staunch stand on whether they would sell the striker or not, the fact that a deadline has now been set as 15 June by Madrid for Arsenal to make a decision shows that the waters are being tested.
It’s become something of a stand-off. If Arteta is to achieve any of his targets as Arsenal boss then losing his main (if not sole) source of goals will severely hamper those aspirations. However, if they were to buckle to Los Blancos’ ultimatum, it would reek of weakness and desperation.
How much they could feasibly muster for a player with just over a year left of his contract and in his 30s is a topic for debate, with figures ranging from £30m to £60m being mooted since rumours began. The impact of the coronavirus has led to major strategical alterations from clubs across Europe, who have all suffered hugely from football’s postponement.
Madrid have money, no doubt, but they too are feeling the financial strain. Clearly, Arsenal believe there is a figure lurking in Madrid’s cash reserves that could tempt them, but what price can you put on a player who’s netted 61 goals in just shy of 100 appearances?
As head of football Raul Sanllehi made clear in October 2018, Arsenal will put an end to the club’s damaging practice of allowing key players to run down their contracts, as painfully witnessed in the cases of Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey and Robin van Persie before them – among others. If they don’t sign, they’ll be sold. Simple as.
So, with that in mind, Aubameyang looks set to leave, right? It was a promise made by Sanllehi to prevent such hysteria returning to the Emirates, but once again, a similar situation has arisen.
This time around, the impact could be beyond catastrophic, as the club’s slide down the Premier League table and lack of beneficial Champions League finances would only worsen without a player of his quality in their ranks.
Stay or go? Stick or twist? At present, it seems the club are just as unsure as the daily media reports and fearful supporters. A concise and clear strategy is in no way apparent, and a call on what they do with Aubameyang looks less likely to arrive than elite European football.
Opening the door for a ‘deadline’ as such shows a lack of transparency within the club on what direction to take. Either decide to sell and raise as much money as conceivable, or make a firm stance on keeping hold of the player and continue using him as the focal point for the rest of this season, and the next.
There has been no talk of a contract extension, as 90min revealed, but the club are lodged in between Plan A and Plan B at the moment, relying on another club’s movements to force their hand.
Navigating through the upcoming transfer window will be supremely difficult work. Swap deals and free transfers will be financial gold for most sides, so even if they do sell Aubameyang, who they can afford and sign this summer is still an area of debate. If they are to try to secure a signing that comes with a decent fee, then they will need to move quick and decide their captain is worth the money.
If not, then working on an extension has to be paramount, and even if that isn’t forthcoming, the hit needs to be taken when he leaves the club for free in 2021. It goes against all the policies that Sanllehi was adamant on, but they’ve left it too long now.
They shouldn’t open themselves up to outside influences, unless, that is, the player makes his stance clear on leaving. He is yet to do that just yet, but if that’s the case, then make your move. Don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs, make a decision as soon as possible, and stick with it.
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