Manchester United were roundly mocked by rival fans for the deal that saw Paul Pogba return to Old Trafford for the eye-watering sum of £89.25m, having left for nothing just four years earlier – but at least that transfer saga had a happy ending.
The same cannot be said of AC Milan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player they let leave for nothing and a mistake they have been paying for ever since.
Aubameyang’s story does share some similarities with that of Pogba.
One of three brothers on the books at the San Siro, Aubameyang’s father, Pierre ‘Yaya’ Aubameyang works as a scout for the MIlan, a position that helped get his three sons on the first rung of the Rossoneri development ladder.
Much like Pogba, Pierre-Emerick was the youngest of the three Aubameyang boys and the most talented.
Perhaps that is why he was often overlooked – his two brothers Catalinia and Willy, a winger and defender respectively, simply were not up to the standard required to thrive in Serie A with their subsequent careers in the lower reaches of the French domestic game testament to this.
Pierre-Emerick was different though.
Having joined the youth team in 2007, Aubameyang wasted little time in making an impact, starring in the inaugural Champions Youth Cup in Malaysia.
Winner of the Roberto Bettega Trophy for top scorer in the competition with seven goals in six games, the Gabonese attacker netted against every team AC Milan faced.
Yet his AC Milan career never really got going, even at youth level.
“He wasn’t playing in the Milan Primavera [Youth] team because the Rossoneri coach preferred Italian players, leaving Aubameyang on the bench.,” His former agent Yvan Le Mee told Le 10 Sport.
It went beyond nationality though, with Rossoneri coaches seemingly unconvinced of his attributes.
“Someone said that Aubameyang was a boy who had square feet and didn’t have technical qualities,” Mee added.
Keen to enjoy more playing time at a crucial point in his career, Mee and Aubameyang realised he would have to look beyond Milan and Italy.
Mee recalled: “At that time, we got in touch with Dijon over a transfer. After pushing really hard for six months, Milan eventually accepted a loan offer from Dijon.”
The loan switch to Dijon proved to be the making of the young forward who scored 10 goals and provided two assists in his debut season as a senior player.
Daniel Joseph, Dijon coach at the time, summed it up:
“Pierre’s performance is impressive considering the fact he is only 18 … he has tremendous physical ability, a willingness to run at defenders and a long time ahead of him to improve.”
Subsequent loans to Lille, Monaco and Saint Etienne followed before Aubameyang finally conceded defeat, moving to the latter of the three on a permanent basis in 2011.
It was his fine goalscoring form and success with St Etienne, where he helped end the club’s near 22-year wait for a trophy with victory in the Coupe de France, that convinced Borussia Dortmund to spend big on the Gabon international.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.