What Could Have Been: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

As Milan fans, we have recently witnessed several youth players move abroad for greener pastures as they no longer were observed by the club as key components to a new Rossoneri regime. Because this beautiful game we call football is the globe’s most popular and participated sport, we often find ourselves losing track of players for many reasons, whether it be a loan or sale. Players come and go, perhaps never truly reaching the heights of a successful footballer.

Over the last decade, there has been an abundance of former Milan youth or young talents setting sail to bordering countries to explore new football challenges or to just shake things up in hopes of finding their craft. Most fans of the game would be able to point out the now-successful players the Rossoneri let free before even getting a legitimate stint with the club. In a series of exclusive articles, we will breakdown the course of ex-Milan youth products that are now striving abroad and give a greater insight on how each player has been progressing throughout their respective careers.

Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started his career with Milan’s youth team back in 2007 prior to making nearly half a dozen loan moves to clubs like Dijon FCO, Lille OSC and Monaco where he showed his quality in spurts. It wasn’t until his initial loan, before a permanent transfer, with Saint-Étienne in 2011 where he made Milan regret what they had done. In his first full season with the Ligue 1 outfit, Aubameyang was electric as he netted 16 goals while being the key supplier with eleven assists. His sixteen goals were good for fourth in the league behind names like Olivier Giroud, Nene and Eden Hazard. The 26-year old’s assist tally was also among the league’s best making him an even more valuable asset.

The Gabon international picked up right where he left off in the 2012-13 campaign as the French-born attacker outperformed the previous season’s stat sheet. The former red and black youth talent scored a stellar 19 league goals, posted alongside his impressive fourteen assists. His nineteen goals were good for second in Ligue 1 behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 30 but to be near the top with one of the most lethal number 9’s is an award of it’s own. For his performance, Aubameyang earned a spot in Ligue 1’s Team of the Season as well as the award for the league’s best African footballer. At this point in time, the current Borussia Dortmund star had strung together two stellar seasons in one of Europe’s best leagues which was a joy to watch if you weren’t a Milan supporter.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s resume had begun to grow and it didn’t take long for the world to take note as he made the switch to German football. The forward made a 13 million euro transfer to Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, a move that stamped him as a recognizable talent in world football. The adjustments that typically go along with a new league were a non-factor for Aubameyang as he continued to be a dynamic player for “die Schwarzgelben” or the “Black and Yellows,” hitting the back of the net 16 times in all competitions including the UEFA Champions League. This past season, despite a very disappointing 7th place finish in the Bundesliga for Dortmund, the former Saint-Étienne standout continued to impress as another 25 goals were scored through all competitions, a total worthy for Bundesliga Team of the Year inclusion.

Aubameyang and Borussia Dortmund have formed a successful relationship and both parties mutually agreed to stay together through June 30, 2020 keeping the Gabonese man with the 2011-12 double winners.

This season, he has exploded once again and scoring at an incredible rate. The forward has 22 league goals in twenty-five Bundesliga appearances (35 in forty matches across all competitions). As a result of his impressive display these past few seasons, Aubemeyang was rightfully crowned African Player of the Year for 2015 with 143 points, edging Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Swansea City’s André Ayew for the honor.

Just a prospect back in 2007 for Milan and now a commodity in Europe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has overcome countless loans moves to now filling his trophy case with special individual awards. Were Milan wrong in not giving him a fair trial with the club? Perhaps you can say that after watching him firsthand become a player of pure quality but it’s unfair to say. Back in 2007, Milan won the UEFA Champions League title and were one of, if not, the best club in world football at the time with players of legendary quality in Kaka, Pirlo, Maldini and Seedorf among others. Of course, Aubameyang was just a teenager and while he may have been a quality chip to hold onto, this was a club who prepares yearly for hardware so it would be difficult to guarantee minutes for him to develop. Fast forward some eight years and you have Milanisti pointing the finger at the management for not structuring a proper plan that integrates core players with youth, a fault still sour with the supporters of the club.

Aubameyang, much like current Manchester United fullback Matteo Darmian, could have very well turned out to be a key man for the club but it’s awfully tough to say that if both stayed, success was guaranteed. Players come and go, sometimes not finding their form until later in their career so while I can say that the men (and women) at the top of the organizational chart dropped the ball on Aubameyang, they also were a European powerhouse during the years he was loaned out. Different times for the club and the era’s aren’t comparable.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 26 years old, one of Bundesliga’s best players and has his foot on the gas pedal. Many would have enjoyed watching him and his explosiveness tear it up for the 7-time Champions League winners, however all we can say is “what could have been?”

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