Aubameyang's Barcelona Adventure
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Aubameyang's Barcelona Adventure

26/02/24 22:49

In January 2022, Aubameyang was an outcast at Arsenal. He had been stripped of his captaincy and was even training separately from the team. Whilst he was once a heroic figure for the gunners, he had slowly declined and his reported attitude problems made him an unpopular figure at the Emirates Stadium.

Meanwhile, Barcelona were in a crisis of their own. Having lost Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann in the summer of 2021, the club was stretched thin in attack as it was. Furthermore, the situation was aggravated when Sergio Aguero was forced to retire from football due to heart problems and Ansu Fati received another injury setback. It looked like Aubameyang was the last thing Barcelona needed in their time of crisis. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

Xavi had just been Barcelona coach for a few months before the January transfer window started. The team had just lost Lionel Messi, who was undoubtedly the best player in the club’s history and you could see how the team was struggling with that. When Ronald Koeman was sacked on October 27 2021, Barcelona were 9th in La Liga. They were also set to crash out of the Champions League. There were even doubts as to whether the Catalan club could finish in the La Liga top 4,

Xavi did manage to steady the ship a bit but it was clear that the team needed more fire power. Some of that was provided with the arrival of Ferran Torres from Manchester City but Xavi still wanted to reinforce his attack further. That’s where Auba comes in. Arsenal readily terminated his contract to facilitate his move to Barcelona and so he arrived.

And he arrived with a bang indeed. Despite having played zero football for almost 2 months, Aubameyang adapted to Barcelona quickly. In fact, he had 8 goals in his first 11 appearances at the club, including 2 goals at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid. His Clasico performance is the feather in his cap from his time at Barcelona as he led the team to a historic win against their arch rivals on their own turf.

The Gabonese striker managed to bring excitement back to a club that was mourning the departure of its hero. Barcelona looked down and out and yet Auba poured new life into the team. Club manager and Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez described Aubameyang as a “gift from heaven”. He ended the season with 11 goals and 1 assist in just 17 appearances in La Liga and was crucial in securing a second place spot in La Liga for the club. It seemed nearly impossible for Barcelona to finish that high up when Koeman was sacked.

So Aubameyang was one of Camp Nou’s favourite sons by the end of the season. He had a contract till 2025. Everything seemed good. Until the arrival of a certain Robert Lewandowski was confirmed. It was made clear to Auba that he would have to play second fiddle to the Pole, who was one of the best players in the world when he arrived. The Gabonese no longer had a confirmed spot in the starting 11 and so he decided to respectfully leave the club before he became a liability.

What’s important to understand is that Barcelona’s financial situation was horrendous at this point. Aubameyang was forced to take on a very low salary when he arrived but it was set to increase at the start of the 2022/23 season, Chelsea were ready to make an offer of €20m Euros for him. It was a pure profit for a player they bought for free 6 months ago. It was too good to turn down. Hence ended one of football’s strangest yet warmest love stories. Aubameyang arrived as a “finished has-been” and left as a hero and an icon at one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Auba did also win a La Liga medal at the end of the 2022/23 season as he had made 1 appearance in La Liga. Football is confusingly beautiful sometimes.

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