So. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says it is up to Arsenal to ‘convince’ him to stay at the Emirates.
The club which has lifted 13 league titles in its long and illustrious history – only bettered by Manchester United and Liverpool – has to ‘convince’ him to remain in north London.
The biggest team in the south, the biggest team in the word’s biggest city, London, the biggest team through attendances, through trophies won, through a litany of top players which stretches all the way back to the club’s first golden heyday nearly one hundred years ago.
I could go on listing all the attributes which makes The Arsenal one of the biggest and best clubs in the world but, quite frankly, if you’re not swayed by any of the above then what is your definition of a big club? And what exactly are you looking for as a player?
Money of course. It always is these days.
Is Aubameyang concerned about a club which has always valued history, class and tradition over crass self-promotion?
Or about a club which instils a sense of pride in all their academy players, instructing them to ‘remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.’
Let's hope so. Because that may sway him to stay. Because if it isn't then we can only surmise it’s all about the money.
Yes, he needs Champions League football. But so do we all.
I never understood when a player says he has to leave to find a club to match their ambitions. My first thought when I hear such nonsense is: 'Well, you're in the team. Why not play your heart out every week to help your team get to where you want to be?'
Who recalls Robin van Persie moaning about Arsenal not being where he wanted to be? The same club that paid his wages for seven injury-prone years? I loved van Persie. But the second he left he became an irrelevence to me and so many other Arsenal watchers.
Yes, he won a title medal. But then so did Mike Phelan at Manchester United. And I'd argue Phelan is the player that United fans love more. Van Persie sold his soul to leave Arsenal - so will Aubameyang if he leaves.
The scenario facing Aubameyang - and Arsenal
Aubameyang insists Arsenal have to convince him to sign a new deal – as he faces a ‘turning point’ in his career.
The Arsenal captain, who will be 31 this week has a contract with the north London club which is set to expire next summer.
Aubameyang, who joined the Gunners from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018 for a club record fee of around £56m, could leave for nothing this time next year.
It is a scenario which haunts Arsenal and head coach Mikel Arteta.
Not just because the club would lose out on the services of a genuine talent - but because his departure would be another name on a litany of star players to have exited the Emirates without the club receiving a penny for their services – in a list which includes Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
With cash-strapped Arsenal having to take a hit on their matchday and TV revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic wiping out sport, the club are in no position to replace Aubameyang with a like-for-like striker, certainly not at the £56m mark they paid Dortmund for Aubameyang during the 2018 January transfer window.
Therefore the question facing Arteta, head of football, Raul Sanllehi, managing director Vinai Ventkatesham and technical director Edu, is whether to break the bank to convince Aubameyang to sign on the dotted line for his final lucrative, long term contract at Arsenal – or risk him running down his deal until June 2021, when he will walk away without the club receiving any money from his new team.
With Barcelona said to be hovering, Aubameyang knows he holds the all the aces.
However, Arsenal have to temper the desire to throw cash at the Gabon forward in a bid to lure him to sign a new contract with the example of Mesut Ozil.
In January 2018, with the club floundering under the last days of Arsene Wenger, and desperate to placate restless fans, as well as try to grab a Champions League spot and reclaim the riches of the promised land, Arsenal made Ozil an offer he couldn’t refuse – in a move which still haunts them now.
In order to persuade the German World Cup winner to extend his contract they hiked his salary to a staggering £350,000 a week, in a decision which still haunts them financially. No wonder executive Josh Kroenke lamented Arsenal were playing ‘Champions League wages on a Europa League budget.’
To be so financially profligate again, this time with Aubameyang reeks of recklessness.
But what is the answer?
It seems Arsenal will be dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. Is it right to offer a player who will turn 31 the day after Arteta’s side take on Manchester City at the Etiahd, an Ozil-style pay packet?
But with the player and his representatives firmly in the negotiating driving seat, knowing full well Aubameyang could depart into the sunset to the Nou Camp with a whopping signing on fee and weekly wages to make even Ozil sit up, what can Arsenal do?
Gone are the days when the lure of playing for The Arsenal was enough. Now they’re just another team on a player’s CV – at a club which cannot even boast the prospect of Champions League football at the moment.
Yes Arteta is intent on changing the status quo and restoring Arsenal to the top table of domestic and European football once again – which means top four finishes and a regular diet of Champions League football – but those aims will take time to come to fruition. And while such hopes are laudable, they won’t persuade Aubameyang to re-sign, nor will they provide the cash from which to fund the riches of his new contract.
So what can be done?
Firstly, the club’s negotiators have to be strong and consistent in their discussions with the striker’s advisors. They have to draw a line in the sand and say: ‘On the final day of the 2019/20 Premier League season you have to sign the new long-term contract we are putting in front of you. Or leave.’
One thing Arteta can do is persuade the former Dortmund striker that he intends to build a team around him. That he has the chance to become a genuine Arsenal legend and leader. While whispering that while Aubameyang might get more cash in La Liga he will always only ever be a footnote at such a giant club as Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Ask Thierry Henry. Or Cesc Fabregas. Or Marc Overmars. Or Emanuel Petit. Or Nicolas Anelka. Or Alex Song. Or Alex Hleb.
Ask van Persie. Or any of those players who were lauded at Arsenal but never came close to being as feted anywhere else. With many still rueing the day they left the Emirates for more cash.
Arteta’s powers of persuasion are already legendary after brokering the only pay cut in the top division. His powers of conciliatory arbitration are already excellent and must be employed with Aubameyang.
One thing that can’t be allowed to happen is for the player to drag out the final year of his deal while issuing a number of denials throughout next season that he will leave. To become the story is both unsettling to the squad as well as divisive – for Aubameyang, his teammates, the club, and the fans.
Whatever Aubameyang says in public he knows he will be counting his cash soon enough, whether with an increased new deal at Arsenal – or at the Nou Camp.
Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent only goes so far these days it seems.
Aubameyang says clearly the decision on what he does next is the biggest of his career. He doesn’t want any regrets. But Arsenal don’t either.
The endgame is approaching. It has to this summer. Because if it doesn’t Arsenal will become a laughing stock – while Aubameyang – whoever he plays for will be laughing all the way to the bank as he turns into van Persie Mark II.