It’s not hard to feel Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got a raw deal during his Borussia Dortmund exit, despite not behaving well.
There was a snipe from the club sent his way in the goodbye press release and the German media have been falling over themselves to tear the Arsenal player, his family, and specifically his father, to shreds for weeks.
Perhaps it’s a new Dortmund approach, with the club previously seeming to have a strain of Stockholm syndrome. Along would come Bayern Munich and snatch their players, usually for free or a vastly knocked down price, and Dortmund would mutter a few things but largely remain nice about it.
Their local media wouldn’t go into full-on fury against the player, nothing like with Aubameyang anyway.
Even when Ilkay Gundogan was messing the club around deciding the best time to jump ship, after Dortmund had got him back from whatever injury it was at the time, there was a great deal of understanding.
As the midfielder extended his contract by single years, allowing him to get fit again and see what interest there was, Dortmund played ball. As the player’s uncle Ilhan Gundogan seemingly contacted clubs around Europe and people spread stories of agreed deals and interest from Europe’s biggest clubs, BVB and German media avoided an Aubameyang style strop.
In March 2016 when Ilhan Gundogan met Txiki Begiristain in Amsterdam, and was photographed doing so, it was Manchester City who got the criticism. Pep Guardiola, then Bayern Munich manager, had also been at the hotel planning his City future, which Gundogan was clearly part of, but that didn’t touch anywhere near as many nerves as Aunameyang has irritated.
And when Guardiola’s soon-to-be-side were trying to get Gundogan as cheaply as possible, the headlines were ‘Joke offer for Gundogan’ and ‘Why is the Manchester City sheikh so stingy?’
The player himself largely escaped scrutiny. This was all despite him again having just a season left on his contract (as the Gundogan renewal plan worked), and putting BVB in a difficult situation having got him back somewhere near fitness again.
Therefore, who to choose as the poster-boy for this week’s SportBild snipe at Aubameyang? Er, Gundogan.
What the very same Gundogan mentioned above or his irreproachable identical twin? Nope, Ilkay.
Under a headline saying ‘Gundogan: This is how Auba harmed BVB’, SportBild then say ‘Ilkay Gundogan criticises the transfer-theatre of ex-colleague’.
The Manchester City player is asked, after what Dembele and Aubameyang did, whether it’s now fashionable to force an exit: “I don’t know if I could have done it like Auba did. At that time I was also criticised for my open change intentions at BVB. The reaction of the fans I understood a bit. But I only wanted to be honest and always gave everything for the club.”
Asked if he’d have let Aubameyang join Arsenal, Gundogan said: “Both parties live with the solution taken, although Dortmund loses a very, very good player. I very much hope that now peace is restored. Because you need it to be successful in the Bundesliga. All the bickering was certainly not conducive for the performance of the team.”
Asked in what way the Aubameyang situation didn’t help, Gundogan said: “As a player you get on with it, and if you read any negative things in the paper every day, then it’s a burden. That’s a hindrance to getting full performance. I keep my fingers crossed for BVB that the club qualify for the Champions League. It would be nice if I see the boys there again next season.”
The Manchester City player dragged his Dortmund exit out for years, making renewals a drama, with a contract designed to make a transfer easier when the right club and offer came along. It was clear someone was going around Europe agreeing deals with clubs, acting with the player’s permission or not, without the knowledge of BVB.
Ilhan Gundogan was actually photographed meeting Manchester City, when his nephew still had over a year of contract left.
It’s worth pointing out that Gundogan himself probably won’t be comfortable with how SportBild have spun his words, and the strangest approach is, again, from the German media.
Aubameyang brought in €60m+ for Dortmund, having been there for four and a half years and after playing many more games than Gundogan ever managed. Dembele brought in up to €150m.
Gundogan, his representatives having already met with Manchester City, got Dortmund £20m, partly thanks to him only having a year left on his deal, having refused the previous year to extend for any longer.
Mats Hummels, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski all joined Bayern Munich for knockdown fees, or nothing, with moves known about long before they happened.
But, no, it’s Aubameyang who is the baddest guy of all, because he caused some disruption to get a move to Arsenal after years of fancying an exit but continuing to produce, on the actual pitch, for Dortmund.