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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – ‘Auba’

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - 'The Black Panther'
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Meet Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gabon record goalscorer constantly firing in the goals for Arsenal in the Premier League.

Name:Pierre-Emerick Emiliano François Aubameyang
Born:June 18, 1989
Birthplace:Laval, France
Height:1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
Clubs:AC Milan, Dijon, Lille, Monaco, Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal
National team:Gabon
Titles:3 (All Club)

Widely considered one of the world’s best strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a dream catch for any club. He’s a proven finisher in the game. It doesn’t where or when, the goals always plunder in one way or the other.

The Gabonese star also possesses lightning-quick pace and rapid agility. These are two of his strongest assets, enabling him to breeze past defences in an instant. Additionally, it allows him to play wide in a front three or as a lone striker.

While Auba’s flamboyant goal celebrations, personality and confidence have endeared him to supporters around the world.

Aside from all the bravado, however, lies someone whose path to the top of the football world has been far from straightforward.

The Italian dream.

Born to a Spanish mother and Gabonese father in the French town of Laval, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang naturally started out in France. He played in five different youth academies there. But it was in Italy where his career took off, with none other than AC Milan.

His father, Pierre, was a technical scout for the Rossoneri after ending his own professional career in 2002. Therefore, he paved the way for his three sons to join him in Italy. The eldest, Catilina, was the first one on the scene before Willy joined him. Pierre, who is the youngest of the trio, linked-up with them in 2007.

AC Milan
Credit: Squawka

Life with the 18-time Serie A champions got off to a dream start for Aubameyang. He soon became indispensable for Milan’s Primavera team, scoring seven goals in six matches during the inaugural Champions Youth Cup in 2007 at Malaysia. While Milan only finished fourth, Pierre still made his mark. Soon scouts from around the world were keeping tabs on him.

Aware of the 19-year-old’s budding potential, Milan and his father agreed to send him out on loan. A deal with Dijon materialised in 2008. Therefore, Aubameyang returned to France hoping to gain valuable first-team experience.

“He was only 19 when he arrived in Dijon,” said head coach Faruk Hadzibegic.

“But already at that age his speed and sense of purpose were interesting.”

Aubameyang spent the entire 2008/09 season playing in Ligue 2 for Dijon, scoring eight goals in 34 appearances. Invitations to the Italy and France U-21 teams soon followed. Despite making one outing for the latter, though, Pierre’s heart was always set on Gabon.

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“My father captained Gabon and although I spent my childhood in France, it’s like I was born in Gabon,” said Auba.

“He taught me so many things about this country that it became my culture. I could well have chosen to play for Spain or France – I even played in the France Under-21 team – but I knew in my heart that I wanted to emulate my father.”

Unexpected setbacks.

After a successful first stint, Aubameyang went on loan again to Lille for the following season. This move not only saw him play in Ligue 1, but it also gave him a taste of European football for the first time.

Joining Les Dogues seemed like an ideal step with many talented youngsters already in the team, including Eden Hazard and Gervinho.

But the striker’s time at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy was a disappointment, with just two goals in 24 games. He made just five starts under Rudi Garcia all season. Another difficult loan spell followed at AS Monaco in 2010/11, ending in a January exit.

Although a third loan switch to Saint-Etienne in the same season did the trick for Aubameyang. He quickly became a prominent figure in the squad, rediscovering his scoring ability in the process. The old Auba was finally back, and a permanent deal soon materialised.

Credit: Twitter

The Gabonese ended the 2011/12 campaign with a career-best 16 goals and 11 assists in 36 league games. A first hat-trick also came his way against Lorient in February 2012. More goal-laden seasons followed, with Pierre establishing himself as one of the biggest young talents in Europe.

It wasn’t long before a host of top clubs began pursuing his services, especially after helping Saint-Etienne win the 2013 Coupe de la Ligue.

Eventually, Aubameyang settled on Borussia Dortmund in a €13m transfer in the summer of 2013.

African & Bundesliga Footballer of the Year.

Life in Germany got off to a fairytale beginning for Aubameyang, with a debut hat-trick away to Augsburg. But it was just one of few highlights for his debut campaign. He struggled under Jurgen Klopp, who frequently deployed him down the right flank. It wasn’t long before he lost his spot in the line-up.

But Robert Lewandowski‘s departure to rivals Bayern Munich for 2014/15 revived Aubameyang’s prospects.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jurgen Klopp
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The Pole’s replacement Ciro Immobile failed to fill the void, opening the door for Aubameyang to become BVB’s main centre-forward. He finished with 11 goals in the club’s final 15 league games.

Although a lowly seventh-place finish in that season’s Bundesliga prompted Klopp to resign. Replacing him was Thomas Tuchel, who helped propel Pierre to new heights under his guidance. It cemented the player’s spot as one of the world’s deadliest attackers in 2015/16.

“He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve had,” Auba once said about Tuchel. “I can’t deny his talent.

“He’s someone a bit crazy, a little like me. You could say that his style is a bit like that of [Pep] Guardiola. In any case, they play with the same spirit.

“He likes to keep the ball with a style of play that likes to see the ball move forward, no matter what happens.”

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Final 2017
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There was no stopping Aubameyang, who provided 39 goals and 12 assists in 49 games across all competitions. Thus, he won the African and Bundesliga Player of the Year prizes.

The striker went one better the following season by scoring 40 times in 46 games. Among his goals was the winner in the DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt, securing his third title in Germany. He had previously won two German Super Cups with BVB.

Aubameyang’s record start at Arsenal.

While Aubameyang became famed in Germany for his goals, acrobatics, haircuts, fashion and superhero masks, it was time to leave in 2018.

The Gabon captain fancied testing his talents in the Premier League, widely rated as Europe’s most difficult league. A club-record €63.75m transfer to Arsenal in January promptly followed. He swiftly took on his idol Thierry Henry’s old #14 jersey in north London.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

“[Henry] was always an example for strikers and because I am also fast and score goals, I always looked up to him,” said Pierre.

“He’s the reason I took the number 14 shirt.”

Auba immediately lived up to all the pre-billed hype surrounding his arrival at the Emirates Stadium, becoming Arsenal’s main man in the attack and setting new standards.

The striker has already scored over 60 goals in under 100 games and won the 2018/19 Premier League Golden Boot, alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Nobody has enjoyed such a prolific start to their Gunners career. Not even Henry himself can boast such stats.

“It meant a lot to win the Golden Boot,” said Pierre.

“I am really happy and proud of it, especially to share the trophy with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. I really like these two guys. We are representing Africa so it is a good sign for the continent.”

The only blip in Aubameyang’s record start is not winning any silverware, having lost the 2018/19 Europa League final. While Arsenal’s continued failure to return to the Premier League top-four has led to doubts over his future. Will he stay next season or not? A lot of it may depend on how things turn out under Mikel Arteta in the next few months.

Interesting times lie ahead for the 30-year-old, with FC Barcelona and Manchester United among his potential suitors.