Nestory Irankunda: Bayern's Australian dynamite
The definitive SCOUTED50 profile.
SCOUTED50 is our collection of the fifty young talents we believe are best positioned to break into the mainstream during 2023/24. Throughout the season, we’ll be detailing all fifty in definitive profiles.
Here’s our profile on the explosive Nestory Irankunda, who ranked #32.
This profile was produced as part of a commercial collaboration with SkillCorner, SCOUTED’s official data partner. SkillCorner’s tracking and performance data is used by more than 140 of the world’s biggest clubs, leagues and confederations. Learn more.
All stats correct as of 31/01/2024 unless otherwise noted.
Since Tim Cahill retired after the 2018 World Cup, Australia have been crying out for an attacker to make a difference. The nation has cycled through forwards at alarming pace since, with new faces flashing up just as fast as they fizzle out again.
Daniel Arzani was the first great hope to take Cahill’s mantle. But his move to Manchester City, and subsequent loan to Celtic, were hampered by knee injuries. He has bounced around since and finally returned to the A-League: first with Macarthur Bulls, and now with Melbourne Victory.
There have been more, but we’ll skip to the present. Today, there are two shining lights. The first is Garang Kuol. Many will have watched Kuol at the World Cup in Qatar, and witnessed that heartbreaking (for me, at least) moment when he almost equalised late against Argentina to force extra-time in their Round of 16 match. This season, parent club Newcastle United loaned him to Volendam in the Eredivisie, and following a tricky six-month loan spell in Scotland with Hearts last term he is now ticking along nicely.
And then there’s Nestory Irankunda. Wow. While Kuol simmers, Irankunda has reached boiling point.
Last season, Irankunda exploded onto the scene in Australia as a prototypical super-sub. With those short cameos came big impact. In total, he played 19 times — all off the bench — contributing five goals in less than 500 minutes, with three of those changing the game state to a draw or a win after the 80th minute.
But it wasn't just the goals - it was the manner in which he scored them. Nestory Irankunda is a high-octane bundle of thrills, an eruption of energy and blistering pace from the wing. He strikes the ball with a generational culture worthy of the headlines. And his emergence in Australia wrote many.
This season introduced Nestory Irankunda to new challenges.
His substitute appearances have turned into starts, and his responsibility to Adelaide United’s attack has increased greatly.
He has established himself as a household name amongst the standard A-League fan and is being forced into growing up very quickly in difficult atmospheres. I know this first-hand — I was in the crowd for an Adelaide United game against Melbourne Victory earlier this season. Irankunda was sent off.
Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory have a hostile rivalry, and the home fans in Melbourne were on Irankunda’s back all game. Eventually, Irankunda’s ensuing frustration, and continuous niggling fouls from Victory players, culminated in a second yellow card for dissent and a small tantrum as he was dragged from the field.
He’d rather have such a learning experience now, rather than after he leaves Australia at the end of the season. Today he is a big fish in a small pond, and one of the faces of a competition lacking star power. He suffers from something people in our part of the world call ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, which I'm told by the Oxford Dictionary is an informal Australian way of saying ‘a perceived tendency to discredit or disparage those who have achieved notable wealth or prominence in public life’.
Soon however, he won't be a big fish in a small pond. He will be a small fish in a gargantuan pond. Because he is going to Bayern Munich.
In Europe, everything will change for Irankunda. He will start from square one, and have to fight tooth and nail to work his way up through the junior ranks at Bayern.
He’s not ready for senior football at a good European level yet, but his promise is undeniable.
So let’s try to chart a course for Nestory, looking at the good, the bad, and the potential path forward to the Bayern senior squad.