Gabon are a long shot to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations as hosts, but if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits top form do not bet against them. UEFA.com builds a shrine in his honour.
What they say
“He knows where the net is, but at the moment he is a classic fast player, whose main quality is escaping opponents. We need to work on that and become more flexible.”
Jürgen Klopp, former Dortmund coach, soon after signing Aubameyang
“He has outstanding qualities – he is the complete package. I would break my foot if I tried to hit free-kicks like he does.”
Klopp a few months later
“You can always find Auba on the pitch. I rate his running on the pitch highly. Maybe things don’t always work out, but if we get it even a little bit right, we create very dangerous situations.”
Marco Reus, Dortmund team-mate
“He’s fun-loving and a happy person. That makes things easier for me.”
Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund coach
“If an offer comes in that does turn his head, we will sit down and discuss it. But even that does not mean he will definitely leave. Auba still has a long-term contract here.”
Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund chief executive
International: 52 appearances, 22 goals
UEFA club competition: 45 appearances, 19 goals
Domestic competition: 302 appearances, 136 goals
Claims to fame
• Aubameyang’s youth career involved many changes as he followed his father, Gabonese international Pierre; he thus spent time with the likes of Le Havre, Toulouse, Nice, Rouen and Corsican side Bastia, moving to AC Milan in the summer of 2006.
• Milan had previously signed both of Aubameyang’s older half-brothers, Catilina and Willy. “We don’t have the same mother so I’ve only known Catilina and Willy since I was nine,” ‘PEA’ explained. Oddly, Pierre-Emerick – by far the most successful of the three – was the only Aubameyang not to make a senior appearance for the club.
• Aubameyang left a mark at Milan in a 2007 Under-19 club tournament in Malaysia; he scored all seven of his side’s goals in a six-game campaign as they finished fourth.
• Farmed out on loan to Ligue 2 Dijon in 2008/09, Aubameyang made his continental debut in the UEFA Europa League the following season while on loan at LOSC Lille. He then spent six months at Monaco, without much success.
• He recently concluded of his time in Milan: “It was a bit tough for me moving around on loan all the time. I think they regret having sold me now, but my relationship with the club is still very good.”
• Initially joined Les Verts on loan in spring 2011, and was signed permanently that summer. Fans who only watched the club’s Ligue 1 home games could be excused for not being impressed initially; his first nine goals for the club were all scored away from home.
• He finally broke his home duck in his 18th Ligue 1 home match at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, hitting a hat-trick – the first of his senior career – in a 4-2 win against Lorient in February 2012.
• Became a hot property but never finished top of the league scorers’ rankings; was joint fourth in 2011/12 with 16 (Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud was top with 21), and joint second the following season with 19 (30-goal Zlatan Ibrahimović was the runaway winner).
• Won what to date remains his only senior trophy on 20 April 2013, starting – but not scoring – in Les Verts’ 1-0 French League Cup final win against Rennes.
• Scored a hat-trick on his Bundesliga debut in a 4-0 win at Augsburg on 10 August 2013, including a goal from his very first shot in the competition – an auspicious start.
• Scored his first goal in a final as Dortmund made it to the 2014/15 German Cup decider, but his side lost 3-1 to Wolfsburg.
• Reached a new goalscoring level when he scored four in a 5-2 win at Hamburg on 5 November 2016.
• Aubameyang’s pace is phenomenal. He was clocked with a top speed of 34.98 km per hour; in the Bundesliga, only Bayern’s Kingsley Coman – 35.06 km/h – has gone faster. “I would love to have a race with Usain Bolt one day,” he said. “It would certainly be a big challenge for me.”
• Scored a hat-trick of penalties for Gabon in a 4-1 win against Niger in June 2013 – the summer he joined Dortmund.
• Runner-up in 2014, Aubameyang was voted African Player of the Year for 2015, the first Gabonese player to receive the honour. “I thank the people of Gabon, this award is for them,” he said. “For the parents of the youth of Africa, please give your kids a chance to realise their dreams.”
What you might not know
• Born in Laval, north-west France, while his father Pierre was playing for the local club, his dad was always his idol. “I used to see my father play, which was unbelievable,” the younger Aubameyang said. “I used to take shots at goal in my bedroom and now I’m a professional player. It’s hard to get my head round.”
• He likes fashion and a bit of bling, notably wearing crystal-encrusted boots on one occasion. That taste for colourful things may be down to his mother. “My mother used to run a shop where she sold very colourful clothes,” he remembered. “I liked that from my early days.”
• The No17’s goal celebrations are worth looking out for. He and team-mate Marco Reus celebrated a derby strike against Schalke with Batman and Robin masks; previously he had dressed as Spiderman to mark a goal against Bayern. “It’s a cool thing to do,” said team-mate Sebastian Kehl. “Fortunately, his goal was enough to win us the game, otherwise we would have given him some stick.”
• His goal celebration somersaults are a homage to former Mexico and Real Madrid striker Hugo Sánchez. According to L’Equipe magazine, Aubameyang promised his late grandfather that he too would score for Madrid one day.
• He counts Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba as key influences. “They helped me a lot,” he said. “I talked to Eto’o about his great career and how I could become a better player. Drogba sent me a message after I was named African Player of the Year. That made me very happy.”
What he says
“Speed is a part of me. I was born with that, and nowadays, as a fast player, I need a fast car too. People can hear me coming at the Dortmund training ground. I love to hear the engine running.”
“Klopp gave me strength of character and helped me progress. He’s a charismatic person and I have a lot of respect for the man.”
“Every time [Filppo Inzaghi] scored and celebrated, you got the feeling it was his first goal. That’s the way I feel as well. I love that rush of scoring.”
“I don’t know how much I am worth on the transfer market. Maybe we’ll find out one day. But I assume it will be in the ballpark of Gonzalo Higuaín’s fee [estimated to be €90m].”
What he might achieve yet
• Becoming Gabon’s most capped international is a long-term ambition – goalkeeper Didier Ovono is currently out in front with 88 appearances, and at 33 a good way off retiring. However, Aubameyang can become the most capped player in his family; having long since left Catilina (9) and Willy (15) behind, his father’s mark of 80 caps is the next target.
• Help Gabon win their first Africa Cup of Nations, or reach their first FIFA World Cup finals.
• Become Dortmund’s top European scorer. Having already overtaken Robert Lewandowski’s tally of 18, Aubameyang is second in the club’s all-time UEFA scorers ranking, five adrift of leading marksman Reus on 24.
• Become Dortmund’s all-time top scorer. Having notched his 100th for the club in December, he is up to sixth in the rankings, just three shy of Robert Lewandowski in fifth. Current Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc is top of the heap with 159.
Aubameyang has scored 100 goals in 164 games for Dortmund 💪⚽️ pic.twitter.com/C4aeIlXHkl
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 19, 2016