smarterthinking

Finding the next Victor Boniface

Bayer Leverkusen has been one of the revelations of the 2023/24 season so far. Under their Spanish coach Xabi Alonso they sit top of the Bundesliga table after 11 matches, ahead of perennial champions Bayern Munich. Leverkusen has emerged as one of the most exciting teams in European football with a solid defensive structure that is complimented by an exciting attacking style of play.

While the likes of Florian Wirtz and Alex Grimaldo have impressed it is the performances of the 22-year-old Nigerian international striker Victor Boniface that have really pushed the German side to the top of the table.

For all that Boniface has had a strong start to the season, 7 goals in 11 league games, he is anything but an overnight success story. Boniface started his career in Europe in 2019 where he moved to the north of Norway to join Bodo|Glimt in the Eliteserien. In Norway his talent was evident but he was still extremely raw although in 2022 Union SG of Belgium took the chance to sign him for a reported £6M. In just one season in Belgium we saw Boniface explode and this past summer Leverkusen took the Nigerian forward to Germany for £20M.

In this article, we will use the tools and data available on smarterscout to identify three younger strikers who could go on to have similar trajectories to Boniface. First of all though, we have to understand the profile of Boniface.

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The key strengths of Boniface are evident in this smarterscout profile as he impresses in his style ratings when it comes to shooting and receiving the ball in the area in particular. In his duel ratings, he impresses mainly in terms of his ground duels in possession and willingness to carry the ball in dangerous areas.

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Boniface’s pizza chart clearly shows how impressive he has been in the attacking phase of the game so far this season. He is in the 92nd percentile for goal contribution and the 94th percentile for expected goal contribution. He is also in the 99th percentile for shots per 90 and the 95th percentile for dribbles and the 96th percentile for touches in the opposition area.


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This scatter graph shows us how effective each player in the Bundesliga has been in terms of their goals per shot, along the x axis, and their xG per shot, up the y axis. As you can see Boniface sits comfortably above average in both metrics. Given the volume of shots that he takes compared to other strikers, 99th percentile, this is extremely notable.

 

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Now, on to the parameters for our search to find players in the smarterscout database that are similar in terms of their output to Victor Boniface. In terms of the model ratings, we have ranked attacking output as somewhat important. With skill ratings, we have ground duels in possession as somewhat important and for the style ratings we have receiving in the box as somewhat important and shooting as very important.

 

  1. Rafiu Durosinmi, 20-years-old, Victoria Plzen and Czechia

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First of all we have the 20-year-old Nigerian striker Rafiu Durosinmi of Victoria Plzen in Czechia. Durosinmi is having an extremely impressive season, with 6 goals and 6 assists in 11 league games, having only joined in the summer for £850K from Karvina.

Physically Durosinmi has the edge over Boniface as he is not only tall but lightning fast and he also boasts one of the most impressive long throws that you are likely to see anywhere in Europe’s top-flights.

As you can see Durosinmi’s smarterscout profile shows that he has impressive output for shooting and receiving in the box, in line with Boniface, but also for disrupting the opposition build-up and recovering possession.

 

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It is easy to make the argument that the data profile for Durosinmi is even more impressive than that of Boniface but he is, of course, playing in a worse league. As you can see from the pizza chart above Durosinmi is in the 95th percentile for goal contributions and the 90th percentile for expected goal contributions. He also gets on the ball in the opposition area and he is in the 93rd percentile for touches in the opposition area.

 

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This radar compares the data of Boniface and Durosinmu and as you can see there are a lot of similarities between the two. Boniface has the edge in terms of shot volume and ball carrying but then on the defensive side of the game and in terms of aerial duels Durosinmi edges it.

There have been rumors recently that Eintracht Frankfurt is extremely interested in taking Durosinmi so we might see him plying his trade in the Bundesliga sooner rather than later.

 

  1. Samu Omorodion, 19-years-old, Alaves (loan) and Spain

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Samu Omorodion has been one of the most intriguing stories in Spanish football for some time. The 19-year-old was playing last season for Recre Granada (the B team of Granada) in the Spanish 4th division but on the opening day of the La Liga season he made his first-team debut for Granada against Atletico Madrid. Omorodion impressed to the extent that Atletico triggered the striker's release clause and signed him after the match. He then moved out on loan to Alaves where he has continued to go from strength to strength.

As you can see from Omorodion’s profile above he impresses in terms of shooting but also when it comes to aerial duels, receiving in the area, and recovering the ball.
 

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Omorodion has yet to turn his performances and data into goals on a regular basis for Granada but the underlying data is trending in the right direction. While he is only in the 35th percentile for goal contributions he is in the 65th percentile for expected goal contributions and the 88th percentile for shots per 90 as well as the 68th percentile for touches in the opposition area per 90.

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You can clearly see from the radar comparison that Omorodion is behind Boniface at the time of writing in terms of his performances and output. The argument is, however, that this was a similar profile to what we saw from Boniface when he was still playing in Norway for Bodo|Glimt and we believe that Omorodion has the potential to make a similar explosion in the near future.

 

  1. Franjo Ivanovic, 20-years-old, Rijeka and Croatia

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Finally, we have the 20-year-old Croatian striker Franjo Ivanovic of Rijeka. Ivanovic has actually spent most of his career to this point in Germany where he played for Augsburg in the youth system before breaking through and into the first-team setup. He moved to his native Croatia this past summer to join Rijeka on a free transfer and the Croatian side look set to make a significant profit on this deal.

As you can see from his smarterscout profile above he impresses in terms of his shooting and receiving in the opposition area but also in terms of his ability to recover possession of the ball.

 

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Ivanovic is another player whose actual output at this point does not match the underlying data. He is in the 33rd percentile for goal contributions but the 89th percentile for expected goal contributions. He is also in the 97th percentile for shots per 90 and the 95th percentile for dribbles per 90 as well as the 84th percentile for touches in the opposition area.

This is an example of why teams who use underlying data have the advantage that if you only looked at his goal output he might not be interesting. When you look at the underlying data, however, and understand that the goals will come then he becomes a player who can be bought at real value.

 

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When you compare Ivanovic to Boniface it quickly becomes clear that there are a lot of similarities although Boniface obviously impresses more in terms of goal output and the aerial side of the game. For a 20-year-old still playing in Croatia though Ivanovic has the profile of a striker who we believe will develop and explode quickly.

 

Conclusions

There are no guaranteed linear progressions within football and players hit their peak at different times. Each time Victor Boniface has moved, from Nigeria to Norway, from Norway to Belgium, and from Belgium to Germany he has improved and adapted to the level and now he is being talked about as a £100M player. The three players we have found here using the smarterscout database have the potential to enjoy similar pathways.

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