At around 5pm on Monday, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona was dead.
But a few hours later it had been revived again and as the 11pm deadline drew nearer the eventual outcome began to become clearer – Aubameyang was getting his dream transfer to one of Europe’s biggest clubs having had no interest in the previously-floated alternative, a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia.
He is due to get the marquee signing treatment when he is unveiled by Barcelona after joining permanently too, rather than on an initially-expected loan.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed his dream move to Barcelona after deadline day drama
Key to the deal going from off to on was a bold move by Aubameyang – his decision to fly to the city, off his own back and without the knowledge of either club, to be in position just in case everything fell into place.
While he was waiting for that good news Aubameyang spent time with his dad, also Pierre, who has a house in Barcelona.
His decision to travel in hope quickly drew comparisons with former West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie’s doomed deadline day dash to QPR in 2013.
The social media comedians and meme generators were already getting to work.
Bizarrely, the striker has been seen training with his new club before the official unveiling
However, it proved to be a show of bravery and commitment to join the Catalan giants that went down well with his new employers and contributed to Barcelona’s determination to ultimately thrash out a deal.
Along with his readiness to take a ‘significant’ financial hit, they were further impressed by his gamble to fly that came with great risk.
Risk of ridicule if the move had not materialised, to his reputation and of more punishment from Arsenal.
In the end Aubameyang, 32, got his wish and, from a situation that looked bleak not so long ago, the striker with previous for celebrating goals with a somersault has landed firmly on his feet.
Aubameyang’s situation at Arsenal was beyond repair, and he took a risk by flying out to Spain
And with a great opportunity to prove that he can still do it at the highest level and in Europe after scoring 92 goals in 163 games in exactly four years for Arsenal.
At one stage, when the deal was considered collapsed, Arsenal were preparing for the prospect of having to reintegrate Aubameyang at least until the summer.
Given the breakdown in relations between him and manager Mikel Arteta it would have been an awkward marriage of convenience at best.
Instead, an end has been brought to a saga that few could have imagined when Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to FA Cup glory in 2020 and marked the triumph by re-posting on social media a picture of himself and Arteta beaming with the caption ‘my manager.’
After Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2020, the ace marked the triumph by posing with Mikel Arteta
Aubameyang arrived in Barcelona early (left), evoking memories of Peter Odemwingie’s saga (right) from 2013
Or when Arteta as much as anyone to convince Aubameyang to sign his new £350,000-per-week, three-year deal that is no more just six weeks later.
By December of 2021 Arteta, a manager with ‘non-negotiables’ he considers central to his approach, viewed Aubameyang returning a day late after being given permission to travel to France to visit his mother as one transgression too many from his captain.
He had previously been dropped for a North London derby after getting stuck in traffic and arriving late for a team meeting and was ruled out of a Europa League tie after missing a UEFA coronavirus test.
Still the severity of punishment was well beyond what Aubameyang anticipated.
Arteta deemed his former captain’s last breach of discipline as one too many and froze him out
As well as losing the armband he was ordered to train alone at separate times to the rest of his team-mates, barely having any communication with some of them.
He has not played for Arsenal since December 6, missing the last 10 games.
He was omitted for Arsenal’s winter training trip to Dubai with Arteta neither delivering the news directly or offering Aubameyang any indication of when his exile may end.
Other than a social media post to confirm his health is fine, Aubameyang has kept his counsel amid the dramas of the last couple of months which have included the Confederation of African Football’s decision to prevent him playing for Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations following claims he had post-Covid heart issues which have proved unfounded.
Aubameyang has not played for Arsenal since December 6, but a solution was finally found
Indeed, it was taken into account at Arsenal as his decision to fly to Barcelona was being processed that Aubameyang had been ticking all the right boxes and conducting himself appropriately while frozen out when it might have been easy to do the opposite.
Still the situation was untenable, the damage was beyond repair and a solution really had to be found.
For Arteta it is one he will be praying works out after allowing Aubameyang to go without signing a replacement and leaving Arsenal short up front for the rest of the season.
For Aubameyang it is a solution that represents a dramatic turnaround and significant improvement in his fortunes and prospects.
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