Aubameyang wins again: Antics once again force move from Arsenal to Barcelona

In the winter of 2018, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s antics at Borussia Dortmund helped force a move to London, where he joined Arsenal. Four years later — to the day — the Gabon international has used those same tactics to land at Spanish giant Barcelona. 

For most of Transfer Deadline Day, it was not looking like there would be takers 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 Jan. 31 photos appeared of Aubameyang walking the corridors of the Barcelona offices with club president Joan Laporta and later signing paperwork inside the club offices.

A deal with Barcelona is expected to be formally announced on Tuesday with Arsenal reportedly already cutting him loose of his contract. Teams can sign free agents outside transfer windows as long as a transfer is not required.

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The forward was already spotted training with his new Barcelona teammates before his move was ever formally announced (see Aubameyang in the background in the photo below):

How Aubameyang landed in Barcelona on a free

It’s now twice that Aubameyang’s exit strategy has worked for him. Other players (and clubs) will surely have taken notice by now.

After Aubameyang burst onto the European scene with Dortmund, he began eyeing a Premier League move to Arsenal. Frustrated with the German side blocking his preferred destination, he began having issues with timeliness to team functions and other unauthorized trips.

It reached a point where Dortmund had no choice but to sell the disgruntled player, and he wound up in Arsenal red, making big wages and finally playing in the Premier League. 

Four years, 92 goals, and zero Champions League appearances later, it’s a case of deja vu. It all started in March 2021 when Aubameyang was omitted from the squad for the North London derby due to “disciplinary reasons.” Then, in December, the Gabon international returned to Arsenal late from a trip to France, and he was banished from the squad and stripped of the captaincy.

Things between Aubameyang and Arsenal had been simmering for some time. His form had dipped significantly this season, and with a contract expiring in June 2023 and no extension secured, things went downhill and fast once the 32-year-old was left sidelined by Arteta.

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Aubameyang departed for the Africa Cup of Nations, only to find himself sidelined with COVID-19 after attending a party in Dubai on his way 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 swirled that he was sent home for that phrase again, “disciplinary reasons.” Arsenal stuck to the official story.

There was no way back at Arsenal. Only a back-and-forth Deadline Day saga befitting of Aubameyang’s career trajectory stood between him and a move to Barcelona, eventually agreeing to a deal on a free transfer that would unshackle Arsenal of his high wage cost reported to have amounted to $427,000 a week.

Now, Aubameyang is Barcelona’s problem.

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While the player has been painted a villain during both club exits, he leaves each stop for another having arguably achieved a step up (though he will take a huge wage cut by joining cash-strapped Barcelona).

Leaving Dortmund, he joined Arsenal, which at the time was a perennial Champions League and Premier League title contender. Now, he leaves a spiraling Arsenal side for Barcelona, a club not without its own problems, but still one of the world’s biggest brands and one expected to rebound quickly.

Aubameyang is on the downward half of his career, there’s no doubting that. At 32 and with just four goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season before the trouble began, Barcelona would do very well to see Aubameyang recapture his early Arsenal form when he displayed beautiful attacking flow and venemous finishing in front of net. He has a new beginning to do just that, but “disciplinary issues” will always hang over his head like a dark cloud, ready to rain on Barcelona’s parade.

Because it certainly hasn’t rained much on Aubameyang’s parade thus far. For the striker who burns bridges at every turn, the ends justify the means.

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