MADRID (AP) – It was a mix of good news and bad news for Barcelona at the end of the winter transfer window on Monday.
The Catalan club was close to making official the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after reaching a deal with the Arsenal striker just before the deadline, but it couldn’t get disgruntled forward Ousmane Dembélé to leave and will likely have to stay with the France forward until his contract ends in June.
It was about half-past midnight in Barcelona when president Joan Laporta left the club’s offices giving a thumbs-up sign and raising his right fist into the air after reportedly closing the deal with Aubameyang.
The striker left moments later, sporting a broad smile and also giving a thumbs-up sign.
The transfer window closed at midnight but Barcelona gained some extra time to make the deal official because Aubameyang reportedly became a free agent before the deadline.
Aubameyang arrived in the Catalan city to finalise negotiations with Barcelona after being stripped of the captaincy at Arsenal for disciplinary reasons. He was reportedly late returning from a personal trip.
The Gabon striker went to the African Cup of Nations but didn’t play after being diagnosed with heart lesions during his recovery from the coronavirus.
The 32-year-old Aubameyang, Arsenal’s highest-paid player, reportedly had to accept a hefty pay cut to join Barcelona as the club doesn’t have a lot of salary cap space.
It has been slowly restructuring its finances after it couldn’t keep Lionel Messi at the end of last season.
Barcelona recently signed Spain international Ferran Torres only after defender Samuel Umtiti agreed to a salary reduction similar to the cuts other squad players had to take
Barcelona also brought back forward Adama Traoré on loan from Wolverhampton until the end of the season, and re-signed veteran Brazil defender Dani Alves after a stint in Brazilian football.
The arrival of Aubameyang will help Barcelona make up for the loss of Sergio Aguero, who had to retire last year because of a heart condition.
Barcelona told Dembélé he had to find a new team after his agents rejected several offers to renew his contract over the last six months.
Football director Mateu Alemany said the club wanted only “players who are committed to the future of the team”.
Dembélé said he would not give in to blackmail and left open the possibility of staying at Barcelona, which reportedly set a EUR20 million fee for the 24-year-old forward, who can leave for free when his contract expires at the end of the season.