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I still remember it as if it was yesterday: throw-in from the left side, the ball is flicked on by a header and converted per volley from a unknown player. It was an amazing goal that made me go nuts and meant the equalizer in one of the best matches of the African Cup of Nations 2012. It was on February 27th, 76th minute of the game Gabon vs Morocco and I had just discovered a new, absolutely great player. That player’s name is Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang and later in the game he gave the assist for the important 2-1. The game was won by Gabon (3-2) and I gave Aubameyang the nickname “African Neymar” thanks to his amazing football skills and his look. I don’t know why, I just had that idea when I saw him… But who is actually this Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang?
Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang was born on the 18th of June 1989 in Laval, Western France. He was predestinated to become a footballer since his father was a professional footballer as well. Pierre Aubameyang was a defender in Toulouse and Nice among other clubs. Just like his brothers Catilina and Willy, the 22-year-old forward has gone through the youth academy of AC Milan. His brothers aren’t by far as successful as Pierre-Émerick nowadays; Catilina is playing in Gabon and Willy is out of contract. But the new superstar of St. Étienne hasn’t always been on the bright side of life either.
In 2007, Aubameyang signed his first contract of his professional career in Milan. But he has never had any appearance for them and didn’t even play for their amateur team! He was always benched and finally loaned out to a French club (Dijon). A few weeks after he had left the Italian top club, a new man became manager of the amateur team of the Rossoneri; Alberigo Evani who has been appointed as coach of the Italian U18 by now. His first question was “Where is Aubameyang?” but when someone told him that young guy had joined Dijon, his sad reaction was “What a pity, he was the best of the whole team.”
Alberigo Evani wasn’t the only one to be wondering why the Lombardic had let him go. Yvan Le Mée, at that time chief scout in Dijon, had discovered him at the world cup for youth teams. In the end of the “Youth Cup”, Aubameyang was awarded with the Roberto-Bettega trophy for the best player of the tournament. Actually he had scored in every single game. He even scored twice against the youth team from Bayern Munich. He “only” netted in once against the youth teams from Amsterdam, Flamengo, Arsenal and Turin though. The right footer even impressed the scouts from Barcelona who actually wanted to sign him up but the father interposed his veto. Some of you might think he had ruined his son’s career but that isn’t true. If you consider that Pierre Aubameyang was and still is chief scout of Berlusconi’s club and that he has a very strong relation with them, you might understand him.
So, in summer 2008, Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang joined a club in the second French league instead of the best team in Spain what didn’t discourage him at all though – in the opposite! He wanted to show everybody how good he was, what was quite bad in the end because he was too keen to do well. His first season in France wasn’t that unsuccessful though, after all he scored 8 goals and gave 2 assists in 34 games. Furthermore hewas even among the 100 most promising talents of “World Soccer” in 2008! His coach and his goal keeper at that time, Faruk Hadzibegic and Landry Bonnefoi had quickly recognized his biggest weaknesses: he wasn’t selfish enough, pretty shy and -as already said- too keen to do well. In the same season he was called up for the first time for Gabon and immediately scored in his first match – against Morocco…
There were many reasons for his exaggerated motivation but the most important of them was one that was going to follow him until he finally signed a contract over 4 years in St. Etienne last winter: the lack of continuity and planning security for the future. This didn’t become better after his more or less good season in Dijon because he went back to Italy but was immediately loaned out again. This time to Lille where he ran out of luck. Even though he made 24 appearances for LOSC, he could only score twice and give 2 assists since he was subbed in 14 times. Furthermore he was often used as left winger thanks to his amazing speed.
One season later, he was loaned out for 6 months to AS Monaco where his stats didn’t really improve either. 2 goals and 3 assists in 22 games despite a lot of playtime aren’t sensational for sure. In 2011 he joined AS St. Étienne – again only on loan. His first 6 months weren’t satisfying for the extravagant living but shy striker. He only netted in twice in 14 games…
But he still appealed to ASSE thanks to his tall and strong body, his speed and his sense towards the goal. So he was loaned out for another 6 months in which he could finally fully convince again since his first season in France (2008/2009). Until January 2012, when he left to the CAN, he scored 8 times and gave 6 assists. At the CAN in his own country, where the world of football noticed him for the first time, he played an amazing tournament with 3 goals and as many assists. His missed penalty in the penalty shoot-out in the quarters against Mali meant the elimination for Gabon though. He was heavily criticized by some experts due to his smile and insufficient run-up.
In the past few games since his return from Africa, Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang could prove his maturity because he didn’t let critics influence him and true to his motto “When you are meant to shine, you have to go to the end”, he has performed amazingly. 5 goals might not sound that great but he has become very precious to his team since he can play as left winger, right winger and center forward. Furthermore ASSE were the first to react after his great CAN and signed him for 1.8 million Euro, what is a joke compared to his market value: 6 million Euro.
When you are meant to shine, you have to go to the end
To sum up, Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang has become one of the best strikers in France and even though his lifestyle is pretty extravagant, he’s grounded, not to say shy. His performances on the pitch are exactly the opposite though which have been pretty amazing over the last months. If he keeps the good work up, he’ll surely join a bigger club in the upcoming years. Perhaps he’ll even be good enough to join AC Milan what is his dream because “that would be kind of a revenge”.
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