The Nigerian and Englishman have taken the German topflight by storm, with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich excitingly neck and neck going into gameweek six.
Victor Boniface’s blistering Bundesliga start
Signed from Union Saint-Gilloise for €20 million in the summer, the striker probably never expected such a bright start in his debut season in one of Europe’s top-five leagues.
07:38 - 25.09.2023
Victor Boniface's exiting start to Bundesliga start has seen him match the former Borussia Dortmund man's exploits
After five matches, the Nigeria international has netted six goals and set up two, taking him to eight direct goal involvements for Xabi Alonso’s men.
The Nigerian's goals in Sunday's win over new boys Heidenheim was his third brace of an embryonic campaign, becoming the third man to score three doubles in his first five Bundesliga appearances.
For a player who suffered two cruciate ligament ruptures at Bodo/Glimt and has never netted more than seven league goals in his career, this season could not have started any better for the rounded frontman, who arguably is the bargain of the summer at the moment.
Boniface’s next goal would be his seventh, equalling last term’s league tally for Union SG in Belgium’s top division. If he avoids injury in 2023-24, there is no reason to think the Super Eagles striker will not smash last year’s return for Union.
Despite Boniface’s brace in gameweek five's win over Heidenheim, August’s Bundesliga Player of the Month was not round five’s top performer.
The contenders for that accolade were Serhou Guirassy — who has outscored everyone in Europe’s major leagues — or Harry Kane, involved in five goals in Bayern Munich’s 7-0 beatdown of Bochum.
Objectively, it had to be Die Bayern’s summer arrival.
Harry Kane thriving outside the Premier League
If there were doubts about Kane’s Premier League comfort translating to Germany’s top flight, the argument is being laid aside after the Englishman’s start at Bayern.
He tore Bochum to shreds in round five, netting a treble to become the fourth Englishman to score three times in one Bundesliga game, as he recorded a 19th career hat-trick.
Fans in Germany may disagree with that interpretation — a classic Deutschland hat trick must be scored consecutively in the same half — but there is no point objecting over semantics for a player whose seven goals in five Bundesliga matches has never been done by anyone in Bayern history.
Kane surpassed the record set by Gerd Muller, Miroslav Klose and Mario Mandzukic, who scored five in as many league matches, moving one goal above Boniface and three adrift of Guirassy.
The England captain’s big-money acquisition in a transfer worth more than €100million was intended to elevate a side that suffered without a recognised top-class centre-forward last season.
Julian Nagelsmann aimed to spread the goals across his attack after Robert Lewandowski departed for Barcelona, but it failed to materialise partly due to Sadio Mane’s underwhelming time in Bavaria.
Strikingly, the pressure of a king’s ransom transfer fee has not weighed down the striker, while the climb to one of the continent’s top divisions has not impeded Boniface.
Boniface vs Kane
Indeed, both strikers faced different pressures heading into the new season.
The Harry Kane transfer was about the striker replicating his Premier League performance outside a team he intermittently captained and one that generally revolved around him.
As for Boniface, the newly-capped Super Eagle looked to fill the shoes of Patrik Schick — whose dip last season and subsequent problems with injuries hindered Bayer — and prove his capability at a higher level.
In a recent interview with Pulse Sports, the Bayer striker explained his style and emphasised his admiration for Alonso, who previously extolled the multifaceted striker.
A comparison of the pair on Fbref gives an insight into both players, with Boniface’s inclination to shoot at goal evident. The Nigerian’s 38 shots (37 minus spot kicks) in the campaign’s opening five games is a Bundesliga high since records began, significantly outranking Kane’s 22 (20 excluding penalties).
Strikingly, Boniface’s finishing technique can still be erratic, and his decision-making could be polished. This season has seen the young striker fail to optimally execute efforts at goal and attempt several low-quality shots from distance or from disadvantaged positions.
His 15.8% conversion rate is significantly worse than Kane (31.8%) or top-scoring Guirassy (45.5%), but the 22-year-old still has time to grow in the Bundesliga under Alonso, even if this could be short-lived going by recent reports.
21:42 - 25.09.2023
Nigerian football sensation, Victor Boniface, is poised to face a significant coaching change at his new club, Bayer Leverkusen.
Be that as it may, Boniface’s dribbling ability has fashioned scoring chances for himself and his teammates, an aspect of his game undoubtedly superior to Kane. No player in the German topflight outranks the Nigerian’s 13 take-ons preceding shots, while the 22-year-old is tied with Guirassy on three dribbles leading to goals.
Kane’s accomplished playmaking is different class, even if Boniface is intermittently adept at fashioning chances for teammates when he opts for a pass instead of shooting.
Frankly, it is to Boniface’s credit and the environment at Bayer that he started amazingly at BayArena. Kane’s world-class standing is without doubt, and the former Union SG striker is comparatively green at this level.
"I didn't expect that I would score six goals in five games," Leverkusen’s new signing said after Sunday's brace against Heidenheim.
"Like I said, in football, you just need to keep trying your best and see what happens in the end.”
It is far too early to make conclusions off five gameweeks, but the bet is on Kane to end the victor in this ongoing duel between the league’s newly arrived strikers.
Boniface may be amazed by his start, but he will not let up. He is only just getting started.