Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completed his much-anticipated free transfer to Barcelona on Wednesday, bringing an end to a whirlwind 48 hours in which negotiations nearly broke down over the forward’s salary costs.
Barcelona said they agreed to a three-and-a-half-year contract with the option to opt out of the deal in June 2023. His buyout clause is set at €100 million.
Arsenal terminated the remaining 18 months of Aubameyang’s contract by mutual consent on Tuesday, with the player waiving future earnings of around £350,000 per week.
His departure could save the Gunners up to £27 million over that span, The Athletic’s James McNicholas and Amy Lawrence report.
Meanwhile, Barcelona could end paying Aubameyang just £1.6 million this season, according to BBC Sport’s Guillem Balague. The 32-year-old was reportedly happy to take any payment to make the deal happen.
Aubameyang traveled to Barcelona in anticipation of the move Monday, but talks over a potential loan deal reportedly collapsed later in the day.
Arsenal had apparently agreed to waive any fee as long as Barcelona covered the majority of Aubameyang’s salary. But the difference was too great for the Blaugrana, especially with Ousmane Dembele still on the books. Dembele, whose contract expires in June, turned down two offers to leave Barca in January, club president Joan Laporta said Tuesday.
Arsenal and Barcelona reportedly resurrected negotiations hours before the transfer deadline, with the Gunners desperate to offload a player who was stripped of the captaincy for disciplinary reasons earlier in the season.
Laporta admitted the documents required to finalize the transfer arrived just one minute before the deadline.
Aubameyang’s last appearance for Arsenal came as a late substitute in their 2-1 loss to Everton on Dec. 6. After a late return from a club-sanctioned trip to France to visit his ill mother, manager Mikel Arteta left Aubameyang out of Arsenal’s following six games.
The forward later joined Gabon’s national team at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, where he tested positive for COVID-19. Gabon sent him home after discovering a heart condition related to the virus.
Aubameyang, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in 2018 for a then-club-record £56 million, leaves a complicated legacy in north London. He won the Premier League Golden Boot alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in 2018-19 and the FA Cup in 2020, and he scored 92 goals in 162 appearances across all competitions.
In September 2020, Aubameyang signed a new three-year contract that eased the blow of Mesut Ozil’s eventual exit later that season. He vowed to become a “legend” of the club like Thierry Henry and “leave a legacy” but struggled to earn his keep. With just four goals in 14 Premier League appearances this term, Aubameyang lost the patience of the fans and manager, bolting at the earliest opportunity for Barcelona.
“Thank you for making London home for myself and my family for the past four years,” Aubameyang wrote on Instagram. “We went through ups and downs together, and your support meant everything to me. Having the chance to win trophies and the honor of being the captain of this club is something I will forever keep in my heart.
“I’ve always been 100% focused and committed on doing everything I can for this club, which is why leaving without a real goodbye hurts, but that is football.”
He’ll now competes for minutes alongside the likes of Ansu Fati, fellow signing Ferran Torres, and Memphis Depay up front.