Vincent Aboubakar: Cameroon’s goalscoring powerhouse taking football by storm

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Previously a little-known figure among many football fans, Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar has become the star of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. Aboubakar is by a long way its top goalscorer so far – boasting five formidable goals. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at his career.

As hotly tipped prospects like Senegal and Algeria have underperformed in the group stages, hosts Cameroon look like one of the top contenders to take this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

In large part that is thanks to their talismanic captain and goalscoring machine Vincent Aboubakar. The tournament’s opening match saw him convert two successive penalties with consummate confidence. When Cameroon injected dynamism into a previously goal-shy Africa Cup of Nations with their 4-1 thumping of Ethiopia last week, Aboubakar led the way with two goals in three minutes – exemplifying the lacerating speed and ruthless finishing skills that have taken the tournament by storm.

Cameroon fans tweeted fulsome praise after that performance, comparing the 29-year-old to Lionel Messi and arguing that club football’s faltering giants Barcelona and Manchester United should snap him up.

But Aboubakar has been an overlooked talent in club football. Born in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé in 1992, he started out as a teenager playing for Coton Sport, based in Garoua in the country’s north. Aboubakar then got his big move to Europe in 2010, joining Ligue 2 side Valenciennes.

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He made his mark early on with a hat-trick against Boulogne in France’s League Cup. Yet over the next few years Aboubakar’s form flagged. By 2013, he had scored just nine goals in 35 appearances for Valenciennes – and the club let him go on a free transfer to Lorient, another Ligue 2 side.

Here Aboubakar sparkled – scoring 16 goals in 35 appearances in his sole season at the Breton side, exhibiting all the power and prowess that have captivated fans in the current Africa Cup of Nations. In 2014 this glittering form prompted a breakthrough move to Porto – the Portuguese side that every so often rise up to grab the attention of football fans across the globe, most memorably by winning the 2003-04 Champions League under Jose Mourinho.

Aboubakar struggled to get into the starting 11 in his first season at Porto, making his biggest impacts by coming off from the bench as an understudy to star strikers Hector Herrera and Jackson Martinez. Aboubakar featured more regularly in his second season, after the departure of Martinez. Nevertheless, he was loaned out to Turkish side Besitkas for the 2016-17 season.

The Cameroonian striker returned to form at the Istanbul club – playing a key role in Besitkas cruising to the Turkish title. Aboubakar also distinguished himself in at the European level – netting a brace to propel them to victory against a tough Napoli in the Champions League, Besitkas’s first victory in the tournament for seven years. Aboubakar was similarly vital in their second round win over Olympiakos, scoring in both legs.

Aboubakar’s sterling performances for Besitkas induced Porto to recall him in 2017. The Cameroonian striker scored a hat-trick against Moreirense FC soon after his return, ensued by another hat-trick a few months later in a thrashing of Vitoria FC that saw Porto leapfrog to the top of the Primeira Liga.

Aboubakar provoked the ire of Porto fans in September 2017, when Besitkas had just beaten them 3-1 at the Dragao and he was filmed laughing in their dressing room as they danced to celebrate their victory. He redeemed himself in the best possible way, by scoring more than 20 goals for Porto that season. But a 2018 ligament injury took Aboubakar out of action for a year, marring his second spell at Porto.

The Cameroonian forward returned to Besitkas in 2020, scoring 15 goals in 26 appearances as they sailed to victory – with a brace in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce. Aboubakar’s performances attracted the attention of Saudi Professional League club Al-Nassr. Like many Middle Eastern clubs, they are keen to boost their profile – and agreed to pay Aboubakar some €6 million per year to join.

But Aboubakar’s greatest performances have arguably been for his country – notably his 88th minute goal to gift Cameroon the edge in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final against Egypt. The same year, he impressed at the FIFA Confederations Cup by scoring against then World Cup victors Germany.

Now the talismanic striker is Cameroon’s biggest asset as they seek to build on their strong group stage performance and seize the Africa Cup of Nations trophy on home soil. Nigeria look like the greatest threat to that dream after swatting aside their group stage opponents with three decisive wins. But none of their players come close to matching Aboubakar’s peerless group stage record: five goals in two games, way ahead of all goalscorers at the tournament so far.

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