Thursday, March 30, 2017

Aubameyang chases AFCON glory to elevate into superstar territory

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 12 Jan 2017

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When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was struggling for game time at AC Milan’s Primavera team in 2007-08, the promising attacker took a decision not many players of his age would have dared to take.

Rather than stick around and wait for his chance at the illustrious Serie A side, Aubameyang decided to take action and request a temporary move away as he felt he was being treated unfairly at San Siro and had little chance of ever breaking into the first team.

“Aubameyang was scoring some amazing goals, but we realised that he was not playing much with Milan’s youth team because their coach favoured Italian players over him and kept Auba out of the team,” the forward’s mentor Yvan Le Mee told Le 10 Sport back in 2016.

“At that time, we got in touch with Dijon over a transfer. After pushing really hard for six months, Milan eventually accepted a loan offer from Dijon.

“And at Dijon, he scored eight goals and provided six more at the tender age of 19. How many players of that age have achieved that?”

And what seemed like a major step back at the time eventually proved to be a career-saving decision.

His season on loan at Dijon was followed up with temporary spells at Lille and Monaco before he ended up at Saint-Etienne, initially on loan but eventually earning himself a permanent move. 

Aubameyang did not waste any time to become a key figure at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and it was no surprise Borussia Dortmund came knocking in 2013 as they anticipated Robert Lewandowski’s departure to Bayern Munich the following season.

Three-and-a-half seasons and 100 goals in all competitions for Dortmund later and Aubameyang is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world after coming in 11th in the vote for the 2016 Ballon d’Or, put in the same bracket as high-profile names such as Luis Suarez, Neymar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – just below the game’s very best Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Regardless of his recent successes, however, Aubameyang remains hungry for more and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations presents him with the perfect podium to elevate into superstar territory.

Despite being still only 27, the Gabon international already has plenty of AFCON experience, having appeared at three previous editions.

Aubameyang made his AFCON debut in 2010, when his country crashed out in the group stages, with the striker unable to find the net.

Things went considerably better in 2012 as the co-hosts made it to the quarter-finals – their joint best-ever result – with Aubameyang one of the stars of the tournament. He scored in each of his side’s three group-stage wins, but it all ended in tears for the forward as he missed the decisive spot-kick in the quarter-final loss to Mali after penalties.

He returned for a third time in 2015, but Gabon failed to make much of an impact as they did not make it to the knockout stages, with Aubameyang scoring once in three outings.

The pressure is on to do better again this time around as Gabon are the sole hosts of the competition for the first time in history.

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