Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wants to lead Barcelona into the Champions League after officially joining the Spanish side on a three-and-a-half-year deal.
Barcelona finally confirmed the signing of Aubameyang on Wednesday, despite the 32-year-old having trained with his new team-mates on Tuesday after agreeing a dramatic Deadline Day move to Spain from Arsenal.
The La Liga side have revealed he has an option to agree his departure on June 30, 2023, with an £83.4m release clause in his contract.
Speaking in an interview on Barcelona’s official Twitter feed, Aubameyang made it clear what his aims were, having signed a deal until 2025.
“I’m very proud, especially because my family is Spanish from my mother’s side,” he said. “I’m really proud and happy to be here. My main goal is to help the team and give everything I can to bring the team back into the Champions League and stuff like that.
“I’m just happy to be here and I will try to give everything. It’s amazing to have him (Xavi) as a coach, he’s been a fantastic player as everyone knows and I’m sure as a coach he will bring us something that we will learn.”
An Arsenal statement on Tuesday night confirmed Aubameyang’s exit: “We wish Auba all the best for the next chapter in his career and thank him for his contribution to the club.”
Later on Tuesday evening, Aubameyang posted a goodbye message on social media: “To the Arsenal fans, thank you for making London home for myself and my family for the past four years.
“We went through ups and downs together and your support meant everything to me.
“Having the chance to win trophies and the honour of being the captain of this club is something I will forever keep in my heart.
“I have always been 100 per cent focused and committed on doing everything I can for this club which is why leaving without a real goodbye hurts – but that is football.
“I’m sad I did not get the chance to help my team-mates in the last few weeks, but I have nothing but respect for this club and truly wish all my guys and the fans all the best and many successful years in the future! Love, Auba.”
Aubameyang leaves Arsenal after four years at the club, having joined from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018 for a then club-record £60m fee.
Arsenal were willing to allow Aubameyang to leave after stripping him of the captaincy in December following a disciplinary issue.
He had not played for Arsenal since December 6, and was left out of their squad for their warm-weather training camp in Dubai.
The Gabon international, who scored 92 goals in 163 games for the Gunners and won the FA Cup in 2020, leaves the Emirates with 18 months left of his contract worth £350,000 a week.
The Premier League club are estimated to be making a saving of around £25m in wages with Aubameyang’s departure. But his exit means Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will finish the season with just two recognised strikers in his squad, with both Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette out of contract in the summer.
The deal for Aubameyang to join Barca had looked off earlier on Deadline Day after talks broke down over the financial part of the deal.
But it is understood that Aubameyang took a significant pay cut to facilitate the move.
Analysis: A risk for Arteta and Arsenal
Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol:
“This is a big risk by Mikel Arteta, because what happens if Aubameyang goes to Barcelona and scores a lot of goals?
“It just shows how much Arsenal are backing the judgement of their manager. Arteta is saying ‘I know he is our best goalscorer, he is the club captain, he is the highest earner at the club for disciplinary reasons l don’t want him at the club’. It’s a big, big call.
“I know he is leaving Arsenal under a bit of a cloud but there are also a lot of good memories. His ratio of goals to games is right up there with the great players.
“Arsenal supporters will say ‘we are weaker now than we were at the start of the window’. But in this instance, you have to back Mikel Arteta’s judgement – that is what the Arsenal owners are doing.”
Analysis: Aubameyang had lost his way
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
“The drop in performance levels has been so great that it is probably worth reminding people that Aubameyang was a world-class striker for much of his time at Arsenal.
“Indeed, from the day of his debut for the club in February 2018 until the day of his double against Everton in February 2020, no player scored more Premier League goals. He scored 49 times in that period, the same as Mohamed Salah and a dozen more than Harry Kane.
“There was a notable highlight after that when he scored twice in Arsenal’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea in the summer of 2020. But almost as soon as his new contract was signed that September, there has been a sense of decline, of a player whose best days are behind him.
“Stripped of the captaincy, too often the leadership has had to come from elsewhere. It is the young players driving Arsenal on under Mikel Arteta, not their best-paid player. That is a situation the club knows well having been through similar with Mesut Ozil. It cannot last.
“At 32, there will be hope that Aubameyang could yet recapture his best form, inspired by new surroundings and the challenge of restoring Barcelona to their former glories. At Arsenal, any regret will be tempered by the feeling that it is time for the club to move on.”
Merson: ‘Arsenal need a striker’
Paul Merson told Sky Sports:
“If Alexandre Lacazette puts the open goal chance away against Burnley, it is job done and no one is moaning at all.
“Everyone would be talking about how good a result that would have been for Arsenal with a clean sheet too. It’s 1-0 to the Arsenal and everything is great. But he misses an open goal and all of a sudden, they have only scored one goal in January, which came in their best performance by a mile.
“That’s the problem Arsenal have. You are not going to win too much without a centre forward.
“I know people will say Manchester City do, but they still have to win the Champions League playing with a false nine. They also have superstars all over the pitch and are probably the only team in the world that could do that.
“So, Arsenal need a centre forward.”
Alan Smith told Sky Sports:
It is sad how Aubameyang’s time at Arsenal has ended but it is something that tends to happen a bit more in football these days.
He was a top-quality striker and at the time of his contract renewal, I do not think Arsenal could have done anything else but to have given him that new deal.
He was the top man at the club, a brilliant finisher and he was the envy of so many top clubs in the world. So, Arsenal wanted to keep hold of him and that was the right thing to do.
But his form fell off a cliff, basically. We all point to that new contract as to whether it made a difference but only he can answer that. Did his appetite go? Did he rest on his laurels? I don’t know but it is a sad way for his Arsenal career to end.
He is not particularly old and he should have some more good years left in him. We will see what happens at Barcelona, but it is disappointing that Arsenal have to let go of a player with that ability.
However, in business and in football you have got to make these difficult calls, and Arsenal have done that.
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