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Real put road form on the line vs. Dortmund

Five Aside
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What if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just decided to stay at Dortmund?

Shaka Hislop says Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's failed summer move to PSG is on him, not the club's sporting director.

Borussia Dortmund's stadium announcer Norbert Dickel and sporting director Michael Zorc were clowning around during an interview on the club's video platform ahead of the Ruhr side's 3-0 win in Hamburg midweek.

Dickel asked: "What will you do, when Auba beats your record?"

Zorc replied: "This won't happen. We'll sell him beforehand."

The 55-year-old Zorc still holds the records for most games played (572) and most goals scored (159) for Dortmund. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is currently ranked fifth in BVB's list of all-time goal scorers, with 129 goals to his name.

And it's not unrealistic that the Gabon international, who scored 40 goals in 41 matches for his club in all competitions last season and who already has netted five goals this campaign, will catch Zorc by the end of this season.

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Zorc, in the meantime, is enjoying a lot of praise after Dortmund's transfer dealings over the summer: Andrey Yarmolenko looks like a savvy replacement for Ousmane Dembele; Maximilian Philipp adds depth to the left wing; Mahmoud Dahoud could grow into the link-up player in midfield that BVB has missed since Ilkay Gundogan left; and Omer Toprak, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Jeremy Toljan have been instant reinforcements to the back-line. And 17-year-old Jadon Sancho is another special talent who could follow the path of Christian Pulisic.

Despite losing Dembele, Dortmund's squad looks well-rounded this season. In the end, though, the best piece of business might have been a transfer that just did not materialise, with Aubameyang staying put at the Westfalenstadion instead of joining Paris Saint-Germain or AC Milan.

On Thursday, Aubameyang gave some insight to how his summer went from his perspective.

"At the start of June, I met [PSG president] Nasser Al-Khelaifi," Aubameyang said. "It was just before Antero Henrique arrived. And once he arrived, he decided he didn't want to take me. Milan offered me something. I was very interested by the project. It did not happen for many reasons."

One of the reasons was that Dortmund effectively closed the transfer window for the 28-year-old six weeks before it actually shut in Germany, knowing full well that they would run out of time to find a suitable replacement for the player who scored a third of their goals last season.

Chances are they would have seen a major drop-off in quality either way. Ciro Immobile, who joined in 2014 as a replacement for Bayern-bound Robert Lewandowski, is a prime example of how tricky it can be for a new striker to replace a former stalwart. Immobile has proven his quality elsewhere since but remains a warning that it's a better strategy to mould a centre-forward within the ranks as it is to find a replacement for their No. 1.

Lewandowski grew in the shadow of Lucas Barrios, and Aubameyang developed in the shade of the Pole. Currently, Dortmund do not possess a striker poised to take over from the Gabonese.

If it wasn't for dubious refereeing in Dortmund's scoreless draw in Freiburg and their 3-1 loss to Spurs at Wembley, Aubameyang would have been on the score sheet of every single match this season. It is hard to imagine that any other player could have done the same for the Westphalians.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a real chance of becoming Dortmund's all-time leading scorer this season.

Whether Aubameyang's dream to play for Real Madrid -- as he once vowed to his grandfather -- still persists, he said: "I have no dream. I shall no longer speak of Madrid. They don't want me. This is not a problem. I move on. I am well in Dortmund.

"I feel that the clubs don't want to go too far [with me]. I'm inevitably frustrated. We had an agreement with Borussia that I could leave. It didn't happen. It is a disappointment. But I'm also happy to stay."

Aubameyang will turn 29 next summer. Maybe he will once again eye a move away from the Bundesliga in order to double or triple his earnings -- and nobody could blame him. Whether there will be a club that meets BVB's asking price and offers a feasible sporting perspective for him, however, stands on different ground.

But maybe Aubameyang should simply embrace Borussia Dortmund for good at this point. He already is in his fifth season, he knows the club and his teammates well and he is loved by the fans. But if and when he becomes the top scorer in BVB club history, he will have achieved legendary status in Dortmund. Being 28 and a father of two, he also will have to think about more trivial but no less important issues, such as where his kids will grow up and where they go to school.

Maybe the No. 17 on his back, which was worn by club legend Leonardo Dede for 13 years, is another foreshadowing element that Aubameyang will extend his stay for longer than originally planned.

More importantly, though, there is a new team developing under Peter Bosz that looks poised for greater things, and many factors hint that the Black and Yellows will keep their team together in all crucial positions next summer -- if Aubameyang stays, that is. If he leaves, the club could be headed for a rebuild, which would be unfortunate.

But if he does decide to remain, Dortmund would almost definitely take another step forward as a club within the next two years, and the big winner would be none other than Aubameyang himself.

Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.

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