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Arsenal allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to run down his contract and leave as a free agent would be "criminal", says David O'Leary.
A talismanic presence at Emirates Stadium is heading down that path at present.
No extension has been agreed to a deal due to expire in the summer of 2021, meaning that the Gunners may soon have to consider parting with a prolific frontman.
O'Leary believes that is the only option available to the north London giants, as they must ensure that they get the "best price" for a saleable asset before his value starts to diminish.
The former Arsenal defender hopes Aubameyang can still be talked round when it comes to fresh terms, but his heart may be set on chasing down major silverware elsewhere.
If that proves to be the case, then Mikel Arteta has been urged to find a buyer for the Gabon international when the next window opens.
O'Leary told talkSPORT: "I think the club has learned in the past that letting people's contracts run down and walking out on free transfers, top players have done that, it's not financially right for the club.
"Personally, I hope he signs again because his goal-scoring record is unbelievable, but the club has got to find out does he want to stay, and if he doesn't then I think they have got to cash in on him.
"You cannot afford to let contracts run down now, particularly a player like that. If he runs his contract down and just walks out on a free, that would be criminal in many ways.
"But we all have to have our own structures on the financial side of things. I don't know what he's looking for. Arsenal pay fantastically well, whether that is good enough for him...
"If it's not going to be, I hate to say it, I think they have got to go and get the best price for him and use that money to bring in someone young and hungry and hopefully do great for Arsenal Football Club. I hope it doesn't come to that."
Aubameyang has claimed to be "happy" at Arsenal over recent months, but a lack of movement on the contract front is keeping the rumour mill ticking over and forcing the Gunners towards big transfer and captaincy decisions.