A dramatic deadline day looks set to end with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leaving Arsenal with Barcelona having reached an agreement to sign the former Gunners' club captain on a free transfer.
Monday had begun with Aubameyang sufficiently confident he was moving to the La Liga giants on loan that he traveled to Catalonia without the knowledge of either club. Early in the afternoon, talks between Arsenal and Barcelona hit a buffer over the latter's finances but sources close to the deal have confirmed that that impasse has been broken. Crucially, the player will now leave on a permanent basis for no transfer fee if the remaining hurdles are completed. The 32-year-old is due to undergo his medical in the coming hours.
While Arsenal will be relieved to get Aubameyang's $400,000-a-week salary off their books, there will be much consternation among supporters if the striker departs without a replacement arriving. Club sources confirmed to CBS Sports that the Gabon international's departure did not reflect any belief at the Emirates Stadium that their month-long pursuit of a center forward will end in success. Barring a dramatic turn of events in the final three hours of the window, Mikel Arteta will head into the remainder of the season with just two strikers in his first team squad.
Meanwhile, Barcelona's striking options have swelled with Aubameyang eager to make the move to La Liga. Even as talks appeared to be wavering the Spanish side expressed confidence. Club president Joan Laporta told Mundo Deportivo: "We will keep working until the last minute. The situation is not easy. It's known we'd like to sign Aubameyang. It's complicated but there's hope."
Sources close to the deal confirmed to CBS Sports that Aubameyang had long since reached a full agreement with Barcelona over the loan deal but the Spanish club have struggled to find an agreement with Arsenal, who were taken by surprise when they discovered that Aubameyang had already made the trip to Barcelona. Some employees discovered only when he was pictured arriving at the airport.
It will be a welcome end to January for Aubameyang, who had rejected offers from elsewhere in a bid to secure a switch to a top European club, CBS Sports revealed earlier this month that the striker had been offered a loan move to Al Nassr, one which would have come with a $9 million mandatory purchase clause that would have been welcomed by Arsenal. Despite late attempts to charm the Gabon striker -- including an exit clause that would have allowed Aubameyang to return to Europe in a year's time -- he was ultimately set on remaining in Europe.
Barcelona entered the fray in the final hours of the window with Xavi having long since identified Aubameyang as his top target. The former Borussia Dortmund striker joins fellow Premier League imports Ferran Torres and Adama Traore to round off a midseason window that has seen the Blaugrana dramatically reshape their attack.
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Aubameyang, who is out of contract in the summer of 2023, has struggled for form since signing a new three-year contract with Arsenal prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, in 43 Premier League games he has scored just 14 goals. In the meantime, Arteta has been using Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah as his center forward options. The former has three Premier League goals this season, the latter none. Both are out of contract at the end of the season.
Arsenal had been attempting to upgrade in that position this month with technical director Edu Gaspar and manager Arteta were open to bringing forward planned summer business to the midseason window. Alexander Isak of Real Sociedad, Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Canada international Jonathan David are all targets. The former has a release clause believed to be priced at $100 million.
The Gunners have also been offered several players on loan this month, including Real Madrid's Luka Jovic and Mehdi Taremi of Porto, and have been working to upgrade Arteta's strikeforce before the transfer window closes Monday night. Meanwhile, Arsenal have made one signing, securing the services of Colorado Rapids center back Auston Trusty.
The 23-year-old will remain on loan with the MLS club until July 17. Trusty was named Rapids' defender of the year for the 2021 season and was called up to the USMNT's training camp in Arizona earlier this month.
"Auston is coming off an exceptional season in 2021 in which he played a vital role in helping us finish atop the Western Conference for the first time in our history," Colorado Rapids executive VP and general manager Padraig Smith said. "We remain committed to bringing through the top young players from Colorado and across the United States and to providing them with a platform to flourish, achieve success in MLS and earn the chance to make a move to Europe.
"Auston's outstanding performances caught the eye of several European clubs over the past 12 months and we are privileged to be part of an organization with the reach and scale of KSE that allows us to help a player of Auston's potential further his development and career aspirations in Europe."