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Before fame, Boniface was walking in the darkness of mental health  International football

Before fame, Boniface was walking in the darkness of mental health International football

In September 2023, it’s hard for anyone to make a list of top ten prospects without including Victor Boniface. The Nigerian has already scored six goals in five Bundesliga matches and scored twice on Sunday in Bayer Leverkusen’s 4-1 win over Heidenheim.

At 22 years old, we’re talking about a complete striker – he does a little bit of everything and is unlikely to be a relevant player at European level in the coming years, having been, alongside Marcus Rashford, the league’s top scorers. Last season Europe for Saint-Gilloise.

But none of this came without a descent into hell. Despite being only 22 years old, Boniface has already experienced a great deal of falling into the abyss, whether due to physical or mental problems.

When he arrived in Norway in 2019, he joined the Budo/Glimt academy and two weeks later injured his knee ligaments during training. It was a six-month break for an 18-year-old alone in a new country.

In 2021, with his move to Club Brugge, he suffered another ligament injury – and this time the six months were twice as long.

At age 20, his personal hospital bill already included two surgeries on his knee ligaments. But he recovered – more or less.

He returned to playing but later faced the death of his mother and fell into depression. “I lost interest in football. I stopped dieting and ate everything. I started living a normal life and just wanted to be happy. I started going to parties and drinking. In general, I don’t drink, but I started drinking because I was depressed,” he told the journalist. Ogora Babatunde in 2022.

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He does it all

Oddly enough, he was sent to hell three times in four years, but nevertheless he constantly built his career.

He scored goals in a good club in a minor league, Bodo, and raised his level a little to a minor league, but in St. Giloise with Europe, and in the summer he moved to European club Leverkusen and one of the European clubs. “5 large“.

It all made sense along the way, but what didn’t make sense was the type of player Boniface was. Although he is a “beast” on a physical level, he combines his length and strength with a lot of speed and a lot of work off the ball. Next, he also has very reasonable technique with both feet and can create a football out of dribbling and passing.

He himself explained why. “I respect all great strikers, but I don’t see many of them. Recently I started watching some, but so far I’ve seen more players like Neymar and Ben Arfa. My style is a little different because I played in Nigeria as a player for 10 years and as a midfielder. He explained: “ “I still see players like Cazorla and Iniesta playing in short spaces.” Nabd Sports website.

The chart below, from The athlete And from Smarterscottalso shows a versatility of skills – intense and deliberate defensively, offensively strong in advancing the ball and dribbling and even an interesting value in progressive passes.

The athlete

All of this explains why 11 assists in 22/23 add up to 17 goals. He is someone who can create attacking football and define it with quality, not only being a striker, but he is one of the many players Nigeria currently has.

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His ability to hold the ball and wait for support is perhaps the only aspect he still seems to be lacking, especially as he is a player who is rather keen on looking for the attacking moment in the game, rather than being patient – but Xabi Alonso, Leverkusen’s coach, would not particularly care about this. , since he is creating a team that is clearly dizzy.

“He does everything well,” the coach noted recently, noting that his background as a player made even Boniface feel like just a fan when he was appointed. “I remember when I signed for Leverkusen, I had a meeting with Xabi Alonso and he was explaining to me tactics and things like that. I was thinking in my head ‘Can you let me take a photo with you?’ He was telling me the reasons for signing me, but I thought this guy is a legend.” And Boniface, as we know, liked it very much.