Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has confirmed that he wants to play for Real Madrid, reiterating to beIN Sports after Wednesday's Champions League match against Zinedine Zidane's side that he had promised as much to his grandfather (h/t Alex Richards for the Mirror).
Speaking after the final whistle at the Santiago Bernabeu, Aubameyang responded to a question regarding a possible future at Real Madrid by saying: "Yes. It's a promise I made to my grandfather. ... Right now I feel very good at Dortmund, but in the future we'll see."
The striker initially revealed the promise he made to his grandfather in a February interview with L'Equipe (h/t Carlos Forjanes of AS).
Aubameyang found the net on Wednesday night, as Dortmund came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 and take top spot in Group F. The goal, his 19th of the season in just 17 appearances across all competitions, is only likely to intensify Real's interest in acquiring his services. Los Blancos have long admired the 27-year-old, according to Alberto Pinero and Ben Hayward for Goal.
The Gabonese forward's influence at Dortmund was recently highlighted by Squawka:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has now scored 19 goals in his last 17 games across all competitions for Dortmund. Vital goal. https://t.co/xbin8Fa1Gi2016-12-7 21:04:44
In the interview with L'Equipe (h/t Pinero and Hayward), Aubameyang said: "My childhood dream was to play for Real Madrid. I promised my grandfather, who was from Avila some 110 kilometres away from Madrid, that I would play there. I realise that it will not be easy, but [it] is always in the back of my mind."
Aubameyang recently confirmed that his long-term future at Dortmund is uncertain, per Richard Martin for Reuters (via MailOnline), but a potential transfer is complicated by Real's transfer ban. The European champions cannot register any new players until January 2018.
Thomas Tuchel will be desperate to keep hold of his star player, particularly given that Dortmund have made a poor start to the 2016-17 Bundesliga season. They are in sixth place, nine points behind league leaders RB Leipzig.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are flying high under Zidane and—after a dramatic late equaliser from Sergio Ramos against Barcelona on Saturday—are six points clear at the top of La Liga.
Karim Benzema has only amassed four league goals in 11 matches this season, which could prompt Real to search for a new forward, even if they have to wait 12 months to land their man.
Speaking before the draw at the Bernabeu, Tuchel made it clear that he feels Dortmund must do everything in their power to keep Aubameyang at the club, per Martin.
"It's normal that he wants to play at Real Madrid one day," the Dortmund boss said. "Any player with his talent would like to play at one of the best teams in the world...
"But my opinion is clear. We cannot achieve our objectives without him. He's an extraordinary player. He makes everyone better."
Jose Felix Diaz of Marca reported Real Madrid and Dortmund reached a deal to give the Spanish club an option on the German contingent's top players, including Aubameyang. Dortmund would not sell their top players without "first informing Real Madrid of another club's interest."
Selling Aubameyang would be a bitter blow for Dortmund, particularly with interest in Christian Pulisic seemingly mounting. The 18-year-old winger is being chased by both Arsenal and Liverpool. According to Sport Bild (h/t Tom Olver for Metro), the German outfit would rather sell to Jurgen Klopp's side.
Losing two key players would cause further damage during what has already been a difficult campaign for Tuchel. Unfortunately, Aubameyang's blunt reiteration of his desire to play in Madrid suggests that Dortmund will eventually be forced to sell.