Borussia Dortmund hit-man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is without doubt among the hottest prospects in European football at the moment, having netted 32 goals in all competitions for the Bundesliga outfit this season.
His form over the last few months has seen him being linked with an eye-popping £60 million move to Manchester United and also to other major clubs across Europe.
Unwanted at Milan
Born and brought up in Laval, France, Aubameyang was initially scouted and picked up by AC Milan in 2007 and grew up through the ranks at the Italian club. He was loaned out by the Rossoneri to accord for greater first-team chances to the likes of Dijon, Monaco and Saint Etienne. He was provided no guarantee of a first team spot at Milan and eventually, AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani decided to sell him to Saint Etienne in 2012 for a fee of £1.4 million. His performances for the side from central France from 2011 to 2013 earned him a regular spot in the side for Gabon (the country of his origin).
It was only a matter of time before Jurgen Klopp and the Die Schwarzgelben came calling. After weeks of speculation, in the summer of 2013 they secured his signature for a £10 million move to Signal Iduna Park.
His first season saw him largely play second-fiddle to Polish superstar Robert Lewandowski, who was then taking Europe and the world by storm with his spectacular performances for Dortmund.
Klopp to the Rescue
It was here Aubameyang concedes that Klopp played a crucial role in keeping him grounded and patient as he waited for first team action. He recalls, “He told me, ‘I know that you young players want everything right away. But you have to learn.”
While recalling that patchy first season, he reveals to the Sun, “He explained that when you come to play for Dortmund, the first season always happens in this way — it’s an apprenticeship. He helped me to understand that things would be better the next season.”
And better it most certainly was for the Gabon international, who along with Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan formed a lethal attacking front three. The trio, led by Aubameyang, played a crucial role in overturning Dortmund’s fortunes in the second half of the 2014/15 season after a rather horrific first half saw them languishing in the relegation zone at Christmas.
The current season under new boss Thomas Tuchel has seen the “Men in Black and Yellow” sit pretty at 2nd place and they have the imperious form of Aubameyang to thank for that.
The 26 year-old credits his former boss with motivating him to train a lot harder and also giving him the strength of character to progress amidst the immense competition for a first team spot. “I worked hard in training, I stayed behind after training,” said Aubameyang.
“That’s what helped me to shine in the Bundesliga because I scored quite a lot of goals despite some difficult games in the league.
“Klopp’s a charismatic person and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Klopp has since moved from Dortmund to Merseyside where the German is pursuing newer and greater challenges with Liverpool. Aubameyang’s words serve as a glowing tribute to the Stuttgart man ahead of their meeting next month in the Europa League quarter-final.