Ten things on Borussia Dortmund and Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Think you know Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? The Borussia Dortmund showman with the fast feet, and even faster cars?
bundesliga.com takes you beyond the goals, the Batman mask and the bling to reveal the man behind the Bundesliga superstar…
1) All you need is Lav(al)
Pierre-Emerick Emiliano François Aubameyang was born in the western French city of Laval on 18 June 1989, sharing a birthday with Sir Paul McCartney and former England and AC Milan coach Fabio Capello. While his French-born mum, Margarita, has Spanish origins, his father, Pierre, was born in the west African country of Gabon, and was a professional footballer in Laval when the youngest — and most famous — of his three sons was born. “Each time I leave Laval and its healthy environment, I really feel good, my body is rested,” explains Aubameyang, who returns to his home town four or five times a year. “I go back to Dortmund full of energy.”
Watch: Aubameyang’s first 95 goals for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga!
2) Dressing room dream
Pierre Sr., who also played for Le Havre, Toulouse and Nice before ending his career at another French club, Rouen, in 2002, had left his native country to pursue his dream of becoming a pro in Europe. “We have football in our blood,” said Aubameyang, who was taken by his grandfather to his first serious training sessions at Laval aged 11. But it was not until his father took him into the first-team dressing room at Nice that the bug really bit. “Something changed in me. I had had the dream of being a pro. But it was a dream, lots of kids have that,” Aubameyang explained. “But when I breathed in the air of the dressing room, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
Watch: Aubameyang was the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer with 31 goals in 2016/17!
3) Teething troubles
Genetically advantaged, Aubameyang Sr.‘s links in football helped Pierre-Emerick and his brothers join the AC Milan youth academy. None though would become a bona fide rossonero. “It was a big step for me, but I learned a lot there in any case,” admitted the Dortmund star, whose work ethic was crafted by former Milan defender Filippo Galli upon his arrival at Milanello in 2008. “He expected every player to track back.” Successive loan moves to French sides Dijon, Lille and Monaco failed to ignite his potential, though, with just four goals coming in 33 Ligue 1 appearances.
4) Green with envy
Come January 2011, and on the verge of another temporary move, Aubameyang’s career was at a crossroads. Fortunately, he took the right path, the one leading to Saint-Etienne. “Even though up until then things hadn’t gone that well for him, I saw one thing in the first training session: he was able to beat anyone with the ball at his feet with a run of 60 metres,” said former coach Christophe Galtier. Though he netted just twice in 14 league games for the French club, Galtier’s faith in his young striker led to the transfer being made permanent the following season. Thirty-five league goals in just 73 league appearances over the next two seasons proved Galtier was absolutely right!
5) Behind the bling
Whoever says “Aubameyang” conjures up images not only of the footballer, but also the fashion icon. Known for his love of outrageous sports cars and still more flamboyant hairstyles, Auba’s fashion sense has turned almost as many heads as his pace has Bundesliga defenders. The Batman logo cut into his hair or embossed on his boots is tame compared to the $3,500 crystal-encrusted footwear he once used when warming up for a Rhone derby with Lyon. But strip away all the star accessories, and Aubameyang is very much down to Earth. “I’m often asked if it’s not annoying to do so many photos and sign so many autographs. No, I’ve always dreamed of that, so I’m not going to complain,” said the man who once painted his red Ferrari green, the colours of his then-club, Saint-Etienne. “When I was little, I would have loved to have taken a photo with a star.”
6) In the name of the father…
That Aubameyang would let success go to his head is to be blinded to his upbringing. “I grew up with my father’s mentality: If you want to achieve something, you have to fight for it,” he explained. “I’d be the same if I weren’t a footballer. OK, I wouldn’t buy a Ferrari, but I would dress exactly the same. I would like people to really get to know me. Then they would perhaps see I’m different to the image they have of me. It’s only my look, my car, the rest is who I really am.” And you won’t find his dad complaining: “He dresses pretty crazily sometimes too. I give him tips.”
7) Quick off the blocks
It is perhaps no surprise Aubameyang loves sports cars given his own searing acceleration on the pitch. When Usain Bolt set the 100m world record in Berlin in 2009, he took 3.78 seconds to reach 30m. Lightning quick, but nothing Aubameyang could not live with, apparently. “When I was with the Milan youth teams I ran 30 metres in 3.9sec, that was official, but I’ve run it in 3.7sec too,” he stated in a German media interview before suggesting — jokingly — the paper could organise a run-off between himself and the jet-heeled Jamaican. While Bolt kept silent, German sprinter Julian Reus — no relation to Marco — threw down the gauntlet to Aubameyang, challenging him to a race to “restore athletics’ honour”, prompting a gleeful response from the Dortmund striker.
8) A goalscorer made, not born
Aubameyang actually did challenge Bolt himself during a TV interview in 2016, and perhaps the pair can duel over a short distance when the now retired eight-time Olympic champion suits up for Dortmund training again. But pace alone has not brought Aubameyang his glut of goals for Die Schwarzgelben, nor — as hard as it may be to believe — was it an in-built instinct. “If I had had him another season, he would have played as a central striker,” admitted Galtier, who played Aubameyang — like many before him — in a wider role. “He had found something that he hadn’t had before: a lot of sang froid in front of goal. He didn’t have that when he arrived to us, and it came through hard work.”
9) Gabon god
He was invited to play for Italy’s Under-19 team, he did feature for France’s Under-21 team in February 2009, but his international career with the country of his birth stopped with just a single appearance. “It was a decision of the family and of the heart,” he said to explain his choice to represent Gabon at senior level like his father and his brother Willy. “I would like to be a role model for my country and Africa. It would be the greatest thing I could achieve to bring people in Gabon a little joy. My dream is to play at the World Cup with Gabon.” The closest to a global tournament he has come is the 2012 London Olympics where he scored his nation’s first — and to date, only — Olympic goal.
10) From striker to superhero
Aubameyang’s elastic-jointed physique allows him to produce his trademark back-flips worthy of an Olympic gymnast, but his playful personality means he has also been creative with his goal celebrations. He pulled a Spiderman mask from behind the sponsors’ billboards at a French league game after scoring for Saint-Etienne against Rennes in 2012/13, a tribute to his team-mate and goalkeeper, Jeremie Janot. Thoughtful Dortmund fans gave a nod to that after Aubameyang’s first competitive appearance for them, the DFL Super Cup win against Bayern in 2013. “That was really nice,” he said. “It showed me they care and that they had done their homework.” “Auba is someone who works very hard,” said Marco Reus, who once joined his team-mate for their famous Batman & Robin celebration. “But he never loses his relaxed mood because of it.”
Watch: Aubameyang showed his fun side at Borussia Dortmund’s Media Day!