Arsenal will reportedly table a mammoth £300,000 a week deal to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of the clutches of a host of top clubs this summer.
Aubameyang has arguably been Arsenal’s best player this season having scored 20 goals in 32 games in all competitions.
However, the Gabon international has just over a year left on his current deal and, as such, speculation over his future has heightened in recent months.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has previously urged the club to sit down with Aubameyang and discuss his contract amid fears he could force through his exit this sumer.
Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move but their No 1 focus is said to be on Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, while Real Madrid have also been credited with an interest, though it’s said they prefer both Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane.
But the real threat could emerge from Manchester United, with fears he could follow in the footsteps of Robin van Persie and quit the Gunners at the height of his powers and move to Old Trafford; something the Dutch striker controversially did back in summer 2012 for a fee of £22.5million.
However, in a new effort to retain Aubameyang’s services and prevent that from happening, the Daily Express claims Arsenal are considering letting Mesut Ozil leave on a free in order to rid themselves of his huge £350,000 a week wages.
Furthermore, they claim Arsenal will use that money to offer Aubameyang a 33% pay increase to take his wages up to £300,000 a week in a bid to convince the player to snub all approaches from elsewhere.
And that move is one that has been backed by Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicolas, who reckons, as the Gunners’ most important player, the club has to do all in their power to keep Aubameyang this summer.
“While I do believe that Arsenal need to fund a rebuild, my preference would be to offer Aubameyang what he wants,” Nicholas told Sky Sports. “Is it possible Ozil could move on? Could this then help fund wages for Aubameyang and others?
“There are differing ways of doing this, but more than anything, I would want Arsenal to renew Aubameyang’s contract for three or four years, if they can.
“They must give Aubameyang exactly what he wants. There simply aren’t many other players like him at that level.”
Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith told Sky Sports he also thinks Ozil will leave the club as a frustration rather than someone who fulfilled his potential.
“It’s difficult to say if he’ll look back and say he’s given himself the best chance of being a success,” he said.
“I don’t know him as a lad. I don’t know what he’s like in training but I would imagine he’s pretty similar to what he’s like on a matchday.
“But look at his record, and he’s been Germany’s footballer of the year [five] times and he’s a World Cup winner. He’ll be thinking, ‘what I’m doing has reaped dividends. I’ve been successful’.
“I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here, but there are times when you’re immensely frustrated by him.
“I don’t think his Arsenal career would be classed as a success. They’re not going to win the league any time soon with him in the side. He’ll be regarded as one of those immensely talented players and Arsenal fans certainly can see how talented he is.
“His team-mates can recognise that as they would see that every day, but even they will be frustrated.”
Aubameyang hopes lifted further
To further lift Arsenal’s hopes of keeping the player, it is widely believed he remains happy in north London and he has made no noises about wanting to move elsewhere.
In fact, in a chat with Kevin-Prince Boateng via Instagram live on Saturday, he seemed positive on his chances of remaining in north London.
“They’re [fans commenting on the stream] all saying you should sign a new deal with Arsenal,” Boateng said to Aubameyang.
Aubameyang responded: “Ah, yeah. I know,” to which Boateng asked: “How long do you have left?”
The forward confirmed he has 12 months remaining on his contract before replying “sure, sure” with a wry smile when asked whether he plans to remain with the club.