Arsenal's new masked maverick
The transfer of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal will delight Premier League fans but he left a trail of unrest in his wake at Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal finally met Dortmund’s asking price for the Bundesliga’s top scorer last season. The Gunners confirmed Aubameyang had joined for a new club record, reportedly £56-million.
Despite clinical finishing and lethal pace, Aubameyang’s Dortmund legacy — 141 goals in 213 matches — is tainted by the manner of his departure.
“I don’t know him any more,” fumed disgruntled sporting director Michael Zorc when Aubameyang, 28, made it clear he wanted out.
Dortmund’s French-born “enfant terrible” has always been known for outlandish behaviour and has had to be disciplined by three Dortmund coaches in the last 16 months.
It started with minor indiscretions, like shaving the logo of private sponsors Nike into his hair, although Dortmund are backed by Puma.
He was dropped by then-coach Tuchel in November 2016 for taking a private jet to Milan, just before a Champions League game, to see his family. Then he annoyed Dortmund teammates by checking his father and brother into the team hotel during a winter training camp in Spain in early January.
Matters came to a head when he was kicked out of the squad for their first game of 2018. Having also been dropped in November by former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz for arriving late to training, new manager Peter Stöger again ejected him for missing a team meeting.
It left the club red-faced, a day after chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke had described Aubameyang as the “total professional”.
André Schürrle admitted the squad shook their collective heads at Aubameyang’s recent behaviour.
“It creates restlessness, it makes you shake your head,” said the Germany winger.
The most blatant provocation came a fortnight ago, when he was left out for the 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin after training poorly. During the game, Aubameyang was playing five-a-side with friends in Dortmund.
He wore a Dortmund shirt bearing the name of Ousmane Dembélé — who forced Borussia to sell him to Barcelona by boycotting training.
Like Dembélé, Aubameyang ultimately made it impossible for Dortmund to keep him.
He arrived in 2013 with a glowing reputation after hitting 37 French league goals in two and a half years with Saint-Étienne.
Having started in AC Milan’s youth academy, Aubameyang first fulfilled his potential at Saint-Étienne after spells at Dijon, Lille and Monaco.
The 2012-2013 season was Aubameyang’s breakthrough year in France as he won the League Cup before joining Dortmund.
When Robert Lewandowski left for Bayern Munich in 2014, Aubameyang stepped up. He netted 16 league goals in 2014-2015, then six more in his bumper season of 2015-2016 when he netted 22 times.
Masks are his thing. He donned a Spiderman mask after scoring for Saint-Étienne against Rennes in 2012-2013. A Batman hood — with Dortmund teammate Marco Reus pulling on a Robin mask — was then donned after netting against Schalke in the Ruhr derby. — AFP