As Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Alexis Sanchez and their respective suitors may come to discover over the next fortnight, Mick Jagger was right – you can’t always get what you want.
All three are pushing for transfers; to Barcelona, Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain but, as it stands, look likely to remain at their current clubs before the circus starts again in January.
In the case of Dembele, suspended at Dortmund for going AWOL in order to force through a move to the Camp Nou, he need only look to his own team-mate for advice on how to accept, or at least handle the situation.
It was widely accepted in Germany around the start of the year that the 2016/17 season would be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s last at the Westfalenstadion.
CEO Hans Joachim Watzke was insistent he would stay, so was then-coach Thomas Tuchel, while Aubameyang remained tantalisingly vague over his future.
And to the surprise of few, as the transfer window opened on July 1, he looked set to leave the Bundesliga, with only the destination of intrigue: Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, AC Milan or Tianjin Quanjian. Yet nothing materialised.
Aubameyang did his best, making repeated comments throughout pre-season with his agent pro-active in advertising his availability, but everyone looked elsewhere. Neymar moved to PSG, Chelsea chose Alvaro Morata as Manchester United won the Romelu Lukaku sweepstakes and AC Milan opted for a younger model in 21-year-old Andre Silva.
It appeared China was the only viable option left, except the landscape had dramatically altered with the China FA’s introduction of tax on foreign signings, implemented on June 19. Aubameyang’s path east was blocked as CSL clubs apparently discovered financial prudence overnight.
But here we are with 11 days to go until the closure of the transfer window, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona and Internazionale either with holes in their squads or openly in the market for a forward or winger. And yet, Aubameyang is being overlooked.
What immediately counts against him is his age. Having turned 28 in June, any transfer is guaranteed with a four or five-year contract and means clubs will recoup a mere fraction of the €80m Dortmund value him at.
In an economic sense it’s a red flag, but there is a danger of overplaying this theory a little. With the inflationary levels of the transfer market, €80m on a man who has 125 goals in 192 games for Dortmund, including 11 in 26 in the Champions League, by 2020/21 could prove – as troublesome as it may seem – a modest price.
The concept of resale value does provide insurance against a transfer not working out, but sometimes a gamble needs to be taken. Should Aubameyang take City to the title, Chelsea to the Champions League or Inter to the Scudetto – all realistic over the next 4-5 years – is that fee not almost instantly paid back?
In a sporting sense, 28 would indicate he’s on a downward trend. A player who bases so much of his game around pace and playing on the counter. As he gets older, he gets slower and therefore increasingly ineffective.
But Aubameyang is a late bloomer. He has only seven full seasons under his belt of 30 or more games. He has also remained relatively injury free, a knock here and there, but since the 2012/13 season has missed just 12 matches through injury.
He is a thoroughbred of an athlete, flexible enough to play through the middle or wide, and his goal production has steadily increased since arriving in Germany: 16, 25, 39, 40 and five goals in three matches of this campaign after another against Wolfsburg yesterday.
There is a concern, particularly among English clubs, that defensively he offers little; rarely tracking back to protect his midfield or full-back, and primarily operates in the penalty-box, with his team play, when in possession, substandard.
But as he has shown – from rejection at AC Milan to prospering at St Etienne and earning a move to Dortmund – he is someone who has worked and developed his game accordingly. Under the right coach, why can’t he adapt to the Premier League?
For now, that will go unanswered as clubs stick to their guns and targets they want but can’t get, as Aubameyang increasingly looks the player they might need.
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