Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only spent six months at Barcelona, but there is no doubt that it had a profound impact on the Gabonese forward.
Arriving on a free transfer after agreeing his exit from Arsenal, Aubameyang came to Barcelona last February. Despite not being fully fit when he arrived, he hit the ground running.
With his arrival, Barcelona played some of the best football of Xavi Hernandez’s tenure. Quick and a menace in the box, Aubameyang’s movement added an extra dimension to Barcelona, stretching the pitch for the Blaugrana. With 13 goals in 24 games, he was joint top-scorer for Barcelona last season, despite his relatively little game time.
Aubameyang did not need much help to get the Barcelona fans to take to him, but a brace in their 4-0 El Clasico win over Real Madrid cemented his place as a fan favourite. Apart from that, he appeared to be enjoying himself, and spoke frequently of how much he loved the city.
However he became a victim of Barcelona’s salary limit last summer, and when Chelsea came knocking with €13m and the opportunity to remove Aubameyang’s wages, the Blaugrana were only too happy to accept.
That was partly as a result of Memphis Depay staying at the club too, and Aubameyang at least could join former manager Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. Six months further down the line, he might have considered digging his heels in too. He now remains an outcast at Chelsea, barely included in squads by Graham Potter.
After he was seen celebrating in the Barcelona dressing room following their El Clasico win over Los Blancos, it was another reminder that he remains popular with the squad and at the club, while he still holds Barcelona in his heart too.
Chelsea were less pleased, and if his exit this summer wasn’t sealed, it appears to be now. There has been talk of a return to Barcelona this summer should the finances work out, but does it make sense?
Barcelona are pursuing young Brazilian striker Vitor Roque in a summer deal, and all of the noise suggests that Roque too is keen on a move to Catalonia. Capable of playing both outside and through the middle, Roque is seen as a long-term replacement for Robert Lewandowski, a short-term back-up, and also a player that could gain minutes elsewhere too.
If that deal comes off, it would make the presence of Aubameyang redundant. While he is a guarantee in front of goal, Roque is their long-term investment. Given some of his minutes to Aubameyang would be losing them money on two levels.
Should Barcelona find themselves unable to bring Roque in, then Aubameyang could be a viable option were he to arrive on cheap wages and a low fee. He would provide an alternative to Lewandowski, and be a positive for the dressing room too.
While it would not solve the long-term future of the position, it would give them more time to find a replacement. An extra year should help their salary limit considerations, given they do not have such a drastic change in income due to their economic levers.
Overall, Aubameyang should not be more than a low-cost quick fix that can help them while they pursue other forwards for next season. If it came to it though, he could again provide a useful short-term contribution.