KAA Gent manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck has revealed that Nigeria national football team prospects Gift Orban and Victor Boniface could have been teammates at club level.
Orban joined Gent in January 2023 from Norwegian first-division side Stabæk Fotball. Six months earlier, Boniface had joined Royale Union Saint-Gilloise from another Norwegian side Bodø/Glimt and was already making waves in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League.
The AFCON 2023 hopefuls have had a great season since then. It turns out that both players could have mesmerised fans at the Ghelamco Arena but the Buffalos chose to go with other options in the summer.
Vanhaezebrouck: Boniface's Injury History Cost Him a Place on Gent Squad
Gent manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck was speaking on the club’s transfer dealings in the summer and their upcoming window when he made these comments (as cited on Voetbalnieuws).
He mentioned that a number of players who were also on the transfer list of Union SG were on Gent’s transfer list, including Victor Boniface.
— Eleven Belgium (NL) (@ElevenBeNL) May 21, 2023
The 22-year-old moved to Europe in 2019 from Real Sapphire, a non-league football club based in Lagos, Nigeria. Two weeks after signing with Bodø/Glimt, he suffered an injury to his cruciate ligament. As he was beginning to repay the faith of the Norwegian club in him in the 2020/21 season, he suffered another injury to the same ligament. In total, he missed 69 top-flight games while in recovery.
Gent had scouted Boniface extensively and had made a decision on him. However, the big striker’s injury record was a problem they could not risk dealing with, leading to them going for Hugo Cuypers, with whom Gift Orban has run riot in the Jupiler Pro League this season.
Vanhaezebrouck said of the decision to not sign Boniface: “Boniface was also on our list, but there were doubts within the club after two serious knee injuries. What he showed this year is even better than what he showed in Norway.”
Boniface, who was called up to Nigeria’s U-20 side in 2019 but could not make it due to said injuries, has scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists for Union SG this term.
Boniface and Orban Miss Out on Ebony Boot for Best African Player in Belgium
The performances of the two Super Eagles‘ prospects had earned them nominations for the Ebony boot award, given by the Belgian Jupiler Prop League to the best player of African descent.
Orban, especially, was a revelation for the league, having only joined in January. He has nine goals in 10 league games, making him the most in-form player in the league in that time period.
However, it was Paul Onuachu’s former teammate at KRC Genk, Mike Trésor Ndayishimiye, who won the award ahead of Orban and Boniface. Boniface finished in second place while Orban finished in third place.
Belgian-born Rwandan midfielder Mike Tresor, has won the Ebony Shoe award over two Nigerian forwards, Victor Boniface and Gift Orban.
The Ebony Show award is given annually to the best African footballer or footballer of African origin featuring in the Belgium Pro League. pic.twitter.com/qIctePmiK3
— Oluwatobiski 💭💞 (@Tobbyleeluv1) May 24, 2023
Both players are transfer targets for a number of clubs, with Orban attracting interest from the Premier League especially. Boniface and Orban could both cost around €10 million to sign but it is unknown if their clubs will be listening to offers for either of them.
This article was most recently revised and updated 6 months ago