Thursday, September 7, 2023

I dreamed of playing for Newcastle but Jurgen Klopp changed my mind, then I ended up signing for Arsenal and Chelsea

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has found his way back to France after a rollercoaster decade.

The Gabon striker is back among the goals at Marseille, attempting to reignite a career that has stalled in recent years.

Ten years ago, everyone wanted Saint-Etienne striker AubameyangAFP

But in 2013, a 24-year-old Aubameyang was trying his best to leave Ligue 1 and there was no shortage of suitors.

Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Paris St Germain, Anzhi Makhachkala and – most importantly – Newcastle were all interested.

After life as a journeyman for much of his early career that began at AC Milan, Aubameyang finally had a breakout season at Saint-Etienne during the 2012/13 campaign.

His 19 league goals left him second in the goalscoring charts, only behind PSG superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Joe Kinnear had just been installed as Newcastle’s director of football and Aubameyang became one of his top targets.

The Magpies made a bid of £15million, with the hope of signing a certain Kurt Zouma from St Etienne in a combined £26m move.

It was rejected, prompting Aubameyang to make a public declaration about his desire to move to the Premier League.

He said: “I will choose England before any other destination.

Newcastle thought Aubameyang was theirsGetty

“My dream has always been to play in one of the top two leagues in the world.

“Newcastle is a good club and St James’s Park is a monumental stadium where there is passionate fans.”

However, there was another club which ended up appealing to Aubameyang more than Newcastle.

He ended up signing for Borussia Dortmund, who had reached the Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp the previous season.

Explaining his decision in 2016, Aubameyang said: “I received an offer from Qatar of €10m per year (£7.83m). If I accepted, my family would be set up for life.

“We chose to stay at Saint-Etienne, where I got €70,000 per month (£55,000), knowing that, given my qualities, I could earn money tomorrow.

“The following season, Saint-Etienne wanted to send me to Newcastle.

“We opted for Dortmund, finalist in the Champions League, because my father studied Klopp’s game, even though the pay was lower.”

Aubameyang managed 41 goals and 16 assists in 93 appearances for Borussia Dortmund under Kloppgetty

Aubameyang became one of the hottest strikers in Europe, while Newcastle embarked on a three year decline which would eventually see them relegated from the Premier League in 2016.

Unlike the Magpies, Aubameyang was playing in the English top-flight in 2018.

Arsenal broke their transfer record to sign the striker from Dortmund in a £56million deal.

For three-and-a-half years, Aubameyang was worth his weight in gold.

He scored 64 goals in 114 leagues games before the 2021/22 season – when everything went wrong.

Aubameyang’s behaviour as captain and role model to the club’s younger players began to irritate manager Mikel Arteta – and a very public fallout led to the striker’s sudden exit.

Barcelona snapped him up in January 2022 and Aubameyang made a solid start, scoring 11 goals in 17 LaLiga matches.

Chelsea then decided to take a punt on the 34-year-old in the summer of 2023.

Aubameyang’s time at Chelsea and Arsenal ended in miseryGetty

It turned out to be a dreadful decision as Aubameyang returned one Premier League goal and barely featured during a forgettable campaign for the club and the player.

He finally escaped back to Ligue 1 this summer after Chelsea struck a deal with Marseille – and the Blues’ future looks a little more optimistic without him.

But had Newcastle managed to sign Aubameyang in his prime, their last decade might have panned out very differently.

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