Vincent Aboubakar 21 Striker FC Lorient Cameroon
2013 has been…
When he signed for Valenciennes in 2010, striker Vincent Aboubakar might have been hoping his next move would be to more illustrious surroundings than the north-west of France and Lorient, but his summer transfer to FCL in 2013 could be the making of him. After being the only member of Cameroon’s 2010 World Cup squad to be playing at home in the republic, he’s started to carve out a solid if unspectacular reputation in Ligue 1.
Valenciennes finished firmly in mid-table last season, five points behind Lorient, and Aboubakar was out of contract and in need of a fresh start. He quickly returned to goalscoring form, roaring past his modest 2012/13 tally of two with an early season purple patch that has been a rare bright spot in a troublesome campaign for Christian Gourcuff and his team. The coach was under pressure in October and in the relegation zone, albeit briefly, in mid-November.
Aboubakar is doing his best to arrest the decline. He scored his first for Lorient against Nantes in August, demonstrating a good first touch and tidy finish in the box after fantastic movement afforded him the chance in the first place. He followed up with the winner against his old club, a goal that showed strength, pace and poise as well as a level of composure that was then absent when he missed a much easier chance to make it 2-0.
Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Sochaux soon found themselves on the end of Aboubakar’s goals but it’s his overall play that suggests a return to form. He has good technique when striking the ball, favouring a powerful shot but now adding a little more delicacy to his finishing too, not to mention the occasional ingenious flick or turn that belies the fact that he can look a little awkward.
Aboubakar can be an unpredictable so-and-so. He’s a very physical player, a hard-as-nails frontman, but also boasts a little stepover (read: big, looping stepover) and some dribbling ability. He has instinctive vision and runs the channels well. Aboubakar is a solid but raw all-rounder and a useful attacking focal point for Lorient.
The downside to his game at present is the aforementioned lack of consistency. One minute he’s hitting the byline and calmly turning out of trouble to clip in a superb cross, the next he’s snatching at a simple chance with the goal gaping. Too often his finishing is better conceived than executed; thankfully, he has the invention and passing ability to bring others (most often Jeremie Aliadiere) into play.
After reported interest from Saint-Etienne last summer, Aboubakar landed in Brittany and has found his feet. Unless he turns in a miraculous second half of the season or Lorient get relegated he will be there next season too, and therefore his biggest challenge in 2014 is an international one.
Aboubakar was called up in 2010 as a Cotonsport Garoua player and has come a long way since then, but has only one international goal to his name in over 20 caps. A poor return domestically has been turned around in the second half of 2013 and the same will have to happen for the Indomitable Lions if Aboubakar is still to be considered a noteworthy prospect this time next year.
He’ll get a chance to prove that at the World Cup after Cameroon’s playoff victory over Tunisia secured their qualification. Two late goals from Jean II Makoun put the seal on their victory in November, but if Aboubakar wants to take the next step then he’ll have to etch his name onto the scoresheet in a similar fashion to the Rennes man’s recent sortie between now and June.
"Had gone stale at Valenciennes, move to Lorient has brought a new lease of life. Still inconsistent, but seeing signs of the talented 19-year-old that first attracted VAFC." - Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Vincent Aboubakar has scored with 24.1% of his shots this season in Ligue 1 (seven goals); a better conversion rate than Zlatan Ibrahimovic (17.0%) and Nolan Roux (23.8%)." - Opta
C More potential than finished article, but finding the net