Nigeria have been churning out some exciting forwards in recent years. Victor Osimhen and Gift Orban spring to mind, but a player who is currently making headlines is new Bayer Leverkusen striker Victor Boniface.
Africa has always been a gold mine of footballing talent, but Scandinavian clubs are renowned for integrating these young players and harnessing their raw talent. In 2019, Boniface became yet another success story of this model after moving from Lagos based Real Sapphire Football Club to Bodø/Glimt in Norway.
But his European journey did not get off to a great start. Boniface suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his first weeks at the club, and then once again during the 2021 campaign. That would ordinarily be enough to completely disrupt a player's career, but despite missing almost two full seasons, the striker was able to bounce back and make a powerful impact on the pitch.
Boniface played fewer than 2000 league minutes at Glimt, but his talent was unquestionable, and prompted Royal Union Saint-Gilloise to bring him over to Belgium at the start of the 2022/23 season. Their gamble paid off spectacularly as the Nigerian was instrumental in Union SG’s title challenge and helped the club to the Europa League quarter-finals, finishing as the tournament's joint-top scorer with six goals in 10 games.
Boniface earned a well deserved move to a top five league, signing for Bayer Leverkusen this summer. Taking advantage of Patrik Schick’s injury, the right-footed marksman has already made a stellar start to his career in the Bundesliga and is WhoScored’s best rated player in Europe so far this season.
Victor Boniface Transfer Value (xTV) - how much is he worth?
Some were surprised when Leverkusen parted with €20.5m for a player with little experience on the big stage. But that fee is fair based on the Expected Transfer Value model, and looks a snip given the inflated valuations flying around this summer.
Boniface’s xTV has already gone up by over €6m since his incredible start to the current campaign. Given his high ceiling and recent call up to the senior Nigeria squad, there is every chance that his transfer value will continue to sky-rocket.
Victor Boniface strengths and weaknesses - what does the data say?
Don’t let his 1.90m frame throw you off. Boniface is so much more than your typical number nine. While he does offer an aerial and goalscoring threat, he also has a Harry Kane-esque ability to drop deep, and create opportunities for his teammates.
His stats from this season are based on too small a sample size and should not to be entirely taken at face value, but getting two assists in three league games is certainly indicative of that playmaking ability.
But you could see this even during his injury ravaged spell in the Eliteserien. When you normalise his minutes played on a per 90 minute basis, Boniface averaged not just an impressive 0.54 goals but also around 8.5 chance creation passes and 0.14 assist per 90.
When it comes to his goalscoring, Boniface can score every kind of goal - using both feet, from distance or close range, from crosses, and also with his head. He makes very clever movements to get into great shooting positions as shown by a solid xG of 0.65 per 90 over the past season in the Jupiler Pro League. And by outperforming his xG he ticks the finishing box too.
The 22-year-old’s speed and technique on the ball also allowed him to make 3.12 progressive carries and 2.78 successful take-ons per 90 over the past year. Both figures, when compared with forwards from the top five leagues, put him among the top 5%.
Add to this the way he uses his physicality to hold up the ball and his comfort in tight spaces, and you are witnessing a player who is evolving into a very unique and hybrid centre-forward.
It is still unclear what type of a player he will become going into the future. Xabi Alonso’s set-up will allow Boniface to hone his goal scoring skills, while providing him the freedom to explore and further develop his creative instincts.
This makes his move to the BayArena very exciting, and puts him down as a player to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.
This article was provided by FootballTransfers