ARSENAL will keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the end of his contract if they can’t get a decent price for him this summer.
Aubameyang is about to enter the final year of his £180,000-a-week Emirates contract and has so far resisted all the club’s efforts to extend his stay.
But Arsenal will not be panicked into selling their star striker to the first bidder just to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing next year.
Head of football Raul Sanllehi declared that no player will be allowed to run down his contract after Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck all left the club as free agents.
But that policy could be relaxed this summer in the face of a massively depressed transfer market.
And that threatens to wreck Aubameyang’s hopes of a move if the cost of a replacement striker far outweighs the fee Arsenal would get for him.
When Barcelona made a tentative enquiry in January, they were quickly scared off by talk of a £50million price tag.
But his value has plummeted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has destroyed every club’s transfer budget.
Now Arsenal would do well to pocket £20million for a player who turns 31 in two weeks’ time.
That will be nowhere near enough to sign a replacement for a striker who has scored 61 goals in 97 Arsenal appearances since his £56million move from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.
And with manager Mikel Arteta still keen to keep his captain and top scorer, Arsenal believe Aubameyang will be more valuable leading their attack for another season than leaving for a knockdown price.
Aubameyang has made no secret of his desire to play in the Champions League and challenge for trophies in the final years of his career.
But Arteta believes Arsenal can still qualify for Europe’s top competition this season despite occupying ninth place in the table at the moment.
He hopes that he can use face-to-face talks to persuade Aubameyang that he can still achieve his ambitions at the Emirates.
Aubameyang has already taken a weekly pay cut of £22,500 to help cash-strapped Arsenal through the coronavirus crisis.
But he will get all of that money back if he can fire the team into the top four when the season resumes at Manchester City in two weeks’ time.
And the fact that very few clubs can afford to match his £9.3million-a-year salary and a hefty transfer fee could yet price Aubameyang out of the market this summer.