The nine with a winger's soul: Victor Boniface arrives
Bayer Leverkusen's new forward is tearing the Bundesliga apart. Here's how.
Victor Boniface has made a brutal impact in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.
He’s special not just because of his goalscoring exploits, writes Rahul Iyer, but because he’s one-of-a-kind: a classic nine with the heart and soul of an electric winger.
Most attackers — young, old, middle-aged, top-level, second-tier — have a standout trait.
They might be beanpoles, like Peter Crouch. They might be big, hulking centre-forwards, like Adebayo Akinfenwa. Others are slippery as eels, like Edinson Cavani or Radamel Falcao, and some are annoying little bugs that twist opponents into sabotaging themselves - think Messi and Maradona.
Sometimes, strikers are able to marry two or three of these attributes together and almost double their effectiveness. Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined a massive frame with oodles of technical ability; Erling Haaland, whose pace would be frightening on most frames, bears down on defenders from a height of 6’4” and with the tenacity of a sniffer dog at an airport.
The beauty of such combinations is players can exist with all kinds of complementary strengths. But some blends are rarer than others.
At the top of the Bundesliga, emergent managerial talent Xabi Alonso has spearheaded his new-look Bayer Leverkusen with a one-of-a-kind attacker - a forward whose synthesis of traits makes him a terror.
Victor Okoh Boniface is the form striker in Europe right now. What makes him so special is not just his goalscoring (he’s got nine this season already) nor his associative play (he’s got three assists, too) but something much more intangible: his soul.
It’s the soul of an expressive winger, trapped in the towering build of a bulldozing nine, and that blend is tearing the Bundesliga apart. This is how.
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