Yesterday was a crucial match for Borussia Dortmund against Portuguese club Sporting CP who were supposed to be the black and yellows toughest competition for the second place in group F. Luckily after two wins against the Lisbon-based club it seems like they are the toughest competition for Real Madrid with Dortmund already being qualified for the knock-out stages.
While being qualified with two games left to play is usually a great accomplishment and one that should be greeted with a general feeling of relief, that is not the mood that surrounds the Strobelallee right now.
Aubameyang got suspended.
Yes, you heard right. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, our best striker and one of our most important players, especially during this injury crisis, did something that forced Thomas Tuchel to throw him out of our squad for the Sporting game.
So what happened?
A phone call or a Milan trip?
Right now there is a lot of room for speculation and it seems like it will stay that way. Watzke, Zorc and Tuchel remained mostly silent on the subject with coach Tuchel being the one that gave us at least a glimpse of what happened, saying: "If you want to be consistent, you have to be consistently consistent. It was a very, very tough decision for us. You all know Auba is our striker number 1. I didn't have any other choice. The decision was made yesterday afternoon (on Tuesday)."
The choice of words here is very interesting. It seems like he wasn't especially angry with Auba but had to suspend him anyway which indicates that some of the speculation in the German media might have some truth to it. There are two prevailing theories right now:
- During a team-meeting Auba used his mobile phone. This lead to an argument with Tuchel (duh) and to the suspension because it is obviously against the team rules.
- Aubameyang had a trip to Milan on Monday, which according to team-rules is not allowed during weeks where Dortmund has Champions League games.
Both of those things would be minor infractions but I personally could see how either one of those could lead to a one-game suspension. Sure PEA is an important player but with so many young players on this team Tuchel has to enforce the rules and set an example. Nobody is above the rules, not even Aubameyang.
This would also explain why it is just a one-game suspension and why Tuchel added: "It's not a red flag and not a measure that we took to correct anything. It's a sanction that was, from our point of view necessary but is also finished after this game (the Sporting game)."
This would again indicate that the club isn't worried about any longtime consequences but that it was rather just a minor incident that they had to address to set an example for the entire team.
So we can probably calm down a bit and just "enjoy" the "sources close to Aubameyang" that will tell the British media outlets over the next few days that it was "always Auba's dream to play for Premier League team X" and that "Aubameyang is currently unhappy in Dortmund" and that "the rift between him and Tuchel is so big that he will absolutely demand a transfer in the winter break". Oh boy....
Will this be a problem?
The real question is, does Borussia Dortmund have a long term problem on their hands with their star striker?
In a vacuum this incident is minor and not really a sign of a rift between Aubameyang and the club. The problem is that BVB need (and want) him to be a leader for this club, especially now that Schmelzer and Reus are injured. In this extremely young squad he needs to be the one that sets a good example for the younger players not the player that breaks team-rules and gets himself suspended the day before an important game.
The Gabon international has always been extravagant and outspoken but it was accepted because he did not break any rules and produced on the field. It is ok, even appreciated to be honest and forthcoming about his future plans, but after the seemingly one-hundredth time hearing about his Real Madrid-dream it becomes old and honestly a bit disrespectful towards his current club.
As of right now everything is good, this was just a minor bump in the road. One that can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things. But what happens if there's another incident like this or if he tells us yet again how much he would love to see himself in a Real-jersey?