Football: 'I'm here!' Aubameyang tells Barcelona fans after delayed signing

Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is believed to have taken a significant cut on his Arsenal wage. PHOTO: FCBARCELONA/TWITTER

BARCELONA (AFP) - "It's Auba time!" declared Barcelona on Wednesday (Feb 2), as they signed Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a free agent.

The club's tweet also included a video of the player declaring "I'm here Barcelona fans! Forca Barca!"

"The player will sign a contract until June 30, 2025," said the Spanish La Liga club on their website, adding that the deal for the 32-year-old included a €100 million (S$152.5 million) buyout clause.

"I'm very happy, very happy to be here and I'm already looking forward to being on the pitch," Aubameyang told the Barca website.

Barcelona are "one of the biggest clubs in the world and that is why I have signed for Barca".

His previous club, English Premier League team Arsenal, on Tuesday released Aubameyang. That cleared the way for the striker, who was already in Spain, to sign for Barcelona as a free agent outside the transfer window which closed on Monday night.

"It was a very long day, but in the end I'm here, I'm looking forward to it and I'm very happy," he said.

French-born Aubameyang is, like his father Pierre, a Gabon international. His mother was born near Madrid before moving to France as a child.

"I'm very proud especially because my family is Spanish by my mother's side," said Aubameyang.

The move gives him the set of the five major European leagues, although he never played in Serie A for AC Milan, where he began his career and starred for the youth team.

"I have experience, I played in Germany, in France, in England, so I'm here to help and give the maximum for the team," said Aubameyang.

Aubameyang is believed to have taken a significant cut on his Arsenal wage, which started at around €300,000 a week.

'Disciplinary breach''

It was a spectacular way for Barca to end an active transfer window.

They have been busy despite their enormous debts and their inability to either sign talented French World Cup-winning striker Ousmane Dembele to a contract extension or to sell him before he becomes a free agent in the summer.

Barcelona have struggled to fill the hole Lionel Messi left when he departed in the summer. With Dembele out of favour, Ansu Fati injured and Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong struggling, the club were desperate to add punch in attack.

Aubameyang's arrival follows Spain winger Ferran Torres, bought at the end of December for €55 million from Manchester City, and the return of both club legend Dani Alves at 38 and Spanish winger Adama Traore, on loan from Wolves.

They sit fifth in La Liga, a point behind Atletico Madrid, who they play at home on Sunday, when Aubameyang could make his debut.

Aubameyang, who was named African Footballer of the Year in 2015, was recruited by Arsenal on the last day of the 2018 January transfer window for a reported £56 million (S$102.4 million), a club record at the time.

In almost exactly four years at the club, he appeared in 165 competitive games and scored 92 goals.

His crowning moment was captaining Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup in 2020, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Chelsea, having scored a brace against Manchester City in the semi-finals.

But his form dipped rapidly after he signed a three-year contract that reportedly made him the Premier League's highest earner at the time in September 2020.

The striker's indiscipline and chronic lack of punctuality caused problems at Arsenal as they had at Dortmund.

In December he was stripped of the captaincy for what Arsenal described as "his latest disciplinary breach".

"I have always been 100 per cent focused and committed on doing everything I can for this club which is why leaving without a real goodbye hurts - but that is football," Aubameyang wrote to Arsenal fans on Instagram after he was released on Tuesday.

In January, Aubameyang was part of the Gabon squad at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon but missed the first two games with the coronavirus before being sent home after team medical staff said they had detected "cardiac lesions".

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