By Samuel Opio
Arsenal have reached a £60m agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, The Spy can confirm.
The Gunners had a bid in excess of £50m rejected last week, with Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc stating they would only let the 28-year-old go if their demands were met.
The Gabon national did not testify as planned in the trial over the attack on the Borussia Dortmund team bus on Monday because of illness.
Negotiations have been ongoing for Aubameyang for a fortnight with Arsenal always confident a deal could be concluded after the player made clear his desire to move to London. The Gabon international has agreed a contract to 2021 believed to be worth around £180,000 a week, which would make him the highest-paid player at the Emirates Stadium.
Yet Dortmund will formally sanction the 28-year-old’s sale only once they have secured a replacement and having been led to believe Olivier Giroud is not interested in a transfer to Germany and ruled out a move for Anthony Modeste of Tianjin Quanjian, they have turned their attentions to Michy Batshuayi.
The under-used Chelsea striker, who has also interested Sevilla, scored twice for the champions against Newcastle on Sunday but has made only four Premier League starts under Antonio Conte since his £33.2m arrival from Marseille in the summer of 2016. The Belgian is keen to move to Dortmund, with talks continuing between the clubs. Chelsea had envisaged a loan but are in dialogue over the potential inclusion of an option to make the deal permanent in the summer. Chelsea are willing to let him leave, though only once they, too, have secured a striker to ease the workload on Álvaro Morata.
Talks have hit an impasse with the Roma forward Edin Dzeko, with Chelsea believed to be reluctant to offer a deal to 2021 for a player who turns 32 in March. The club have a policy not to commit significant transfer fees, or contracts longer than a year, to players in their 30s and are reluctant to break this to recruit the Bosnian.
Dzeko, for his part, is settled in Italy and in no hurry to leave a club to whom he is contracted until 2020. A weekend of talks with his agent failed to yield agreement and left Chelsea contemplating furthering their interest in Leicester City’s out-of-favour Islam Slimani or, more intriguingly, Giroud.
Arsène Wenger’s instinct has been to retain Giroud – who has also been the subject of tentative interest from West Ham – and certainly to reject the prospect of releasing him to a direct rival for a top-four place, but the 31-year-old has made only one Premier League start this season and is desperate to gain more regular playing time before the World Cup. Chelsea have held talks aimed at securing the forward, either on loan or for an initial £15m plus potential add-ons. That could suit Giroud, who has no great desire to move from London mid-season.