As Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turns 29, UEFA.com sings the praises of the Arsenal forward.
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Unable to play European football for Arsenal in the spring following his winter transfer from Borussia Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be one of the stars of the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League. UEFA.com helps to blow out his candles.
What they say
"I know him very well. He's one of my best friends and the best team-mates I've ever had. I'm very happy to have him here and I think all the fans are happy as well to see him in Arsenal shirt."
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Arsenal midfielder
"He has outstanding qualities – he is the complete package. I would break my foot if I tried to hit free-kicks like he does."
Jürgen Klopp, former Dortmund coach
"You can always find 'Auba' on the pitch. I rate his running highly. Maybe things don't always work out, but if we get it even a bit right, we create very dangerous situations."
Marco Reus, Dortmund team-mate
"He's fun-loving and a happy person. That makes things easier for me."
Thomas Tuchel, former Dortmund coach
International: 56 appearances, 23 goals
UEFA club competition: 55 appearances, 26 goals
Domestic competition: 355 appearances, 180 goals
Claims to fame
• Aubameyang's youth career was circuitous as he followed his father, Gabonese international Pierre; he thus spent time with the likes of Le Havre, Toulouse, Nice, Rouen and Corsican side Bastia, moving to AC Milan in summer 2006.
• Milan had previously signed both of Aubameyang's older half-brothers, Catilina and Willy. "We don't have the same mother so I've only known Catilina and Willy since I was nine," 'PEA' explained. Oddly, Pierre-Emerick – by far the most successful of the three – was the only Aubameyang not to make a senior appearance for the Rossoneri.
• Aubameyang still left a mark at Milan in a 2007 Under-19 tournament in Malaysia; he bagged all seven of their goals in a six-game campaign.
• Farmed out on loan to Ligue 2 Dijon in 2008/09, Aubameyang made his continental debut in the UEFA Europa League the following season while loaned to LOSC Lille. He then had six months at Monaco, albeit without much success.
• He later concluded of his Milanese stint: "It was a bit tough for me moving around on loan all the time. I think they regret having sold me now, but my relationship with the club is still very good."
• Initially joining Les Verts on loan in spring 2011, he was recruited permanently that summer. Fans who only watched the club's Ligue 1 home matches could be excused for not being impressed straight away; his first nine goals were scored away from home.
• He finally broke his home duck in his 18th Ligue 1 home game at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, bagging a hat-trick – the first of his senior career – in a 4-2 win against Lorient in February 2012.
• Aubameyang landed his first senior prize on 20 April 2013, starting – but not scoring – in Les Verts' 1-0 French League Cup final triumph against Rennes.
• He hit a hat-trick on his Bundesliga debut in a 4-0 victory at Augsburg on 10 August 2013, including a goal from his very first shot in the competition.
• 'PEA' reached a new goalscoring level when registering four times in a 5-2 stroll at Hamburg on 5 November 2016.
• Aubameyang's pace is phenomenal. He was clocked with a top speed of 34.98km per hour; in the Bundesliga, only Bayern's Kingsley Coman – 35.06km/h – has gone faster. "I would love to have a race with Usain Bolt," he said. "It would certainly be a big challenge!"
• He struck the winner from the penalty spot as Dortmund beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 in the 2017 German Cup final.
• Upon receiving the Bundesliga Golden Boot for 31 goals in 2016/17, he shed a tear and said: "Winning the Golden Boot was something I dreamed of. It was even better as I beat a player like Robert Lewandowski."
• With 26 goals, he has scored over three times more goals in UEFA competition than every other Gabonese player combined (8).
• He left Dortmund as their all-time top foreign marksman with 141 goals.
• Typically he netted on his Arsenal debut, also becoming the first Gunner to score five goals in his first six games for the club. He ended the 2017/18 campaign with ten goals in 13 league outings.
• His strike in the 1-0 victory at Huddersfield Town on 13 May 2018 was the final goal of Arsène Wenger's 22-year reign as Arsenal boss.
• 'Auba' helped himself to a hat-trick of penalties for Gabon in a 4-1 win over Niger in June 2013 – the summer he switched to Dortmund.
• Runner-up in 2014, Aubameyang was voted African Player of the Year for 2015, the first Gabonese player to receive the honour. "I thank the people of Gabon, this award is for them," he said. "For the parents of the youth of Africa, please give your kids a chance to realise their dreams."
What you might not know
• Born in Laval, north-west France, in June 1989 while dad Pierre was playing for the local team, his father was always his hero. "I used to see my father play, which was unbelievable," Aubameyang Jr said. "I used to take shots at goal in my bedroom and now I'm a professional. It's hard to get my head round."
• He likes fashion and a bit of bling, notably once wearing crystal-encrusted boots. That taste for colourful things may be down to his mother. "My mother used to run a shop where she sold very colourful clothes," he said. "I liked that from my early days."
• His goal celebrations are worth watching. He and Marco Reus once celebrated a derby strike against Schalke with Batman and Robin masks; previously he had dressed as Spiderman to mark a goal against Bayern. "It's a cool thing to do," said BVB's Sebastian Kehl. "Fortunately, his goal was enough to win us the game, otherwise we would have given him some stick."
• His celebratory somersaults are a homage to ex-Mexico and Real Madrid ace Hugo Sánchez. According to L'Équipe, Aubameyang promised his late grandfather that he too would score for Madrid one day.
• He is multilingual – often in the course of the same sentence. "It's not easy communicating with me," he said. "Sometimes I speak Spanish, then change into Italian and later I may say something in German or French. It is always fun talking to me."
• He counts Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba as key influences. "They helped me a lot," he said. "I talked to Eto'o about his great career and how I could become a better player. Drogba sent me a message after I was named African Player of the Year. That made me very happy."
• However, his favourite player may well be former Argentina attacker Hernán Crespo: Aubameyang has 'Crespo for life' tattooed on his arm.
What he says
"Speed is a part of me. I was born with that, and nowadays, as a fast player, I need a fast car too. People can hear me coming to the Dortmund training ground. I love to hear the engine running."
"Klopp gave me strength of character and helped me progress. He's a charismatic person and I have a lot of respect for the man."
"Every time [Filippo Inzaghi] scored and celebrated, you got the feeling it was his first goal. That's the way I feel. I love that rush of scoring."
"I think everyone is actually a little bit excited to see what happens next season. It is strange that [Arsène Wenger] has left after 22 years. But that's life – we have to look forward."
What he might achieve yet
• Win a league title; at the moment, his only honours have been domestic cups in France (2013) and Germany (2017).
• Win a UEFA competition; the nearest he has got is the quarter-finals of both the UEFA Champions League (2013/14, 2016/17) and UEFA Europa League (2015/16).
• Become Gabon's most capped international – goalkeeper Didier Ovono is out in front on 101 appearances, and at 34 a good way off retiring. However, Aubameyang can become the most capped player in his family; he long since left Catilina (9) and Willy (15) behind, his father's mark of 80 caps the next target.
• Help Gabon win their first Africa Cup of Nations, or make their first FIFA World Cup.
• Become the top-scoring African player in UEFA club competitions: Ivorian Drogba holds the record with 50 goals. At 29, Aubameyang has scored 26.