The last day of the winter transfer window arrived in Spain on Monday with Barcelona hoping to seal the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and find a buyer for Ousmane Dembélé.
Aubameyang arrived to finalise negotiations with the Catalan club after being stripped of the captaincy at Arsenal for disciplinary reasons, after reportedly being 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.
Aubameyang, Arsenal’s highest-paid player, would reportedly be accepting a hefty pay cut to join Barcelona as the club doesn't have a lot of salary cap space.
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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 last year.
The arrival of Aubameyang would help Barcelona make up for the loss of Sergio Aguero — who had to retire last year because of a heart condition — and the possible departure of Dembélé after it couldn't reach an agreement for his contract extension.
Two weeks ago Barcelona told Dembélé he had to find a new team after his agents rejected several offers made to the French player over the last six months. Football director Mateu Alemany said the club only wanted “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 20-million-euro ($22.3-million-euro) fee for the 24-year-old forward, who can leave for free when his contract expires at the end of the season. Spanish media said Paris Saint-Germain was negotiating a possible transfer for the player.
Barcelona broke its own record to sign Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 with a deal, including add-ons, worth 147 million euros (then $175 million). Many fans questioned the transfer as it used up a good chunk of the 220 million euros (then $262 million) that Barcelona had received from PSG for Neymar just weeks before.
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Dembélé was injured for long stretches of his first two seasons and only established himself as a regular starter last term. He also played sparingly this season because of injuries and coronavirus.
Barcelona said Dembélé was a “no-show” in reporting for its last league match before the international break “because of an upset stomach".Before that, coach Xavi Hernández had not included him for a Copa del Rey game.
Among other possible deals, Valencia is set to reach an agreement for the loan of young Spain international Bryan Gil from Tottenham. League leader Real Madrid and defending champion Atlético Madrid are not expected to make any major moves.