Self-proclaimed rival to Usain Bolt aims to run rings around Champions League rivals after settling into Jürgen Klopp's side
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang certainly does not lack confidence. Last summer, when asked by a German newspaper how quick he really is, the Borussia Dortmund forward answered: "Maybe you should organise a race between me and Usain Bolt to find out … "
Usain Bolt? The world record holder and six-times Olympic champion? Oh yes. "When I was with the Milan youth teams I ran 30 metres in 3.9sec, that was official, but I've run it in 3.7sec too," Aubameyang said. Bolt apparently needed 3.78sec to get to 30 metres when he set the world record in 2009.
Aubameyang was one of Dortmund's two marquee signings last summer – Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining from Shakhtar Donetsk was the other – and he scored a hat-trick on his league debut for Jürgen Klopp's side. He has added another two goals to stand on five after nine league games with Dortmund, second in the Bundesliga as they arrived in London for Tuesday's Champions League Group F tie against Arsenal.
The Gunners were one of the clubs reportedly chasing Aubameyang last summer. Newcastle were another but when it came down to it the choice was an easy one for the Gabon striker.
"As soon as I heard Dortmund were interested I made up my mind. I was really happy because I had followed them in the past few years and they had come such a long way," he told Die Zeit. "I just thought: 'Yes, that's a good fit', and then I wanted to join them straight away."
Aubameyang is 24 but his career has not been straightforward. The son of a professional footballer, Pierre Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick moved from France to Italy at the age of 17 to join Milan, where his brother Willy was already playing. He learned a lot but was not able to break into the first team. He was then loaned out, first to Dijon, then to Lille and finally to Monaco. None of those clubs had seen enough to buy him but in June 2011 St Etienne and their manager Alain Perrin – who had a less-than-successful spell at Portsmouth in 2005 – decided to gamble on the forward.
He did not immediately shine but ended the following season with 19 league goals, second only to Zlatan Ibrahimovic among Ligue 1's goalscorers. He was on his way to becoming a worldwide star.
But there is more to Aubameyang than goals and speed (on and off the pitch). Recently the Gabon striker was clocked doing 74kmh in a 30kmh zone in Germany, although, remarkably, he is only expected to pay a fine of €200 (£169) and lose his driving licence for a month.
He has had a number of eye-catching cars, the worst, arguably, being an acid green Aston Martin DB9 and his latest being a pimped-up black and yellow Porsche Panamera, nicknamed the Batmobile in the German press. There is, in fact, a comic-strip theme running through the forward's career.
He recently had the Batman logo incorporated into his haircut and he shot to fame in France when he celebrated a goal by producing a Spider-Man mask from behind the advertising hoardings and putting it on his face.
He said later that he had done it because a team-mate, Jérémie Janot, was a huge fan of Spider-Man (Janot was a goalkeeper and unlikely to be able to celebrate himself). When Aubameyang arrived in Germany, the Dortmund fans brought Spider-Man masks to the games. "That was really nice," he said. "It showed me they care and that they had done their homework."
And then there was the footwear. The football boots encrusted with 4,000 Swarovski crystals which he wore during the warm-up before a game against Lyon while with St Etienne.
They cost €3,000 – and, for obvious reasons, he did not play in them. But behind all the bling there is a hugely committed footballer. His father, who moved from Gabon to France at an early age with a desire to become a professional footballer, even though his own father was against it, has instilled an enormous work ethic in the Dortmund player.
Klopp has said that Aubameyang has a "brutal" amount of quality in him although the player has admitted it has taken him some time to settle in at Dortmund, despite the flurry of early goals.
"The tempo is definitely more extreme here in Germany and I noticed that straight away. I am still getting used to it all, the constant pressing, the backtracking for the forwards as soon as you lose the ball. But when I was at Milan I had Filippo Galli as a coach, so I know all about pressing."
As for Arsenal, there is a worrying message: "I don't think I have reached my top here at Dortmund yet. I know my body. There is still more to come."