Nestory Irankunda’s seven-figure sale to German giants Bayern Munich underscores a new era for the Isuzu UTE A-League.
It also confirms that Australian talent is back in vogue in Europe and the A-League Men is being scouted as closely as ever by overseas clubs.
Fresh off a record-breaking transfer window where ex-Melbourne City stars Jordan Bos (Westerlo) and Marco Tilio (Celtic) smashed the Australian outbound transfer records for over $2m apiece which culminated in a $10m+ A-Leagues transfer window, Irankunda’s $1.75m purchase is a statement.
Three of the biggest-spending leagues in the world have bought A-Leagues players in the last year, with Newcastle United buying Central Coast attacker Garang Kuol, Saudi Arabian side Al Wehda headhunting Johnny Warren medallist Craig Goodwin and now this.
This week’s episode of A-Leagues All Access will take you inside Nestory Irankunda’s transfer to Bayern Munich. Watch it on aleagues.com.au this Thursday.
The sale is not an Australian or A-Leagues outbound record – it would have been nine months ago – but it is a record for Adelaide United, who continue to produce a conveyor belt of talent, many of whom have gone on to represent Australia and play abroad, and in the top few A-Leagues and all-time Australian outbound transfers.
Irankunda, who is believed to have had a host of European clubs chasing his signature including Premier League giants, is not the first Australian to sign for a big club and won’t be the last.
The winger is not the first Australian or A-League talent to sign for a big European club – and not the first to sign for Bayern Munich either, with Liberian-born Perth product Julius Davies signing there 14 years ago and more recently Sarpreet Singh (now at Hansa Rostock), who joined from Wellington Phoenix, and Anthony Pavlesic from Central Coast Mariners.
FULL DETAILS: Everything you need to know about Irankunda to Bayern
ALL ACCESS: Why Nestory Irankunda picked Bayern over the Premier League
THE BACKSTORY: How Nestory Irankunda was discovered & what he’ll bring to Bayern
THE MOMENT: All Access cameras capture the moment the deal was signed
HIGHLIGHTS REEL: Every Irankunda goal in the A-Leagues
ANOTHER FEAT: Irankunda earns October nomination for Young Footballer of the Year
The fact that Irankunda is understood to be training with Bayern Munich’s first team upon arrival is a strong indicator as to how the Bavarians view the Tanzania-born talent of Burundi heritage.
If Mark Viduka symbolised the European wave of migration from the drought-breaking Socceroos generation, then Irankunda is the new pin-up boy for the growing wave of African-Australians making a mega impact on the A-Leagues and national teams, alongside 2022 World Cup squad members Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng.
And like Viduka and many other from the NSL era such as Brett Emerton, Jason Culina and Mile Sterjovski, Irankunda looks set to transition from Australia to Europe with a solid foundation of 60-plus games under his belt when he departs in June 2024, having already notched 38 A-Leagues games and 39 in all competitions (his first three starts came this season).
Irankunda’s total minutes (1045) could triple by the end of the season, assuming he continues to start.
It should be noted that Viduka’s level of dominance was unlike any other teenager who’s departed Australian shores, claiming back-to-back Under 21 Player of the Year, Johnny Warren medals and Golden Boot awards before departing for Dinamo Zagreb, age 19.
Extensive PFA research indicates players have a much greater chance of long-term success if they can get 100 senior games of football under their belts by age 21, which is often aided by a strong foundation of games at home before moving abroad, where language and homesickness can all make assimilation challenging.
Irankunda has benefitted from a nurturing Adelaide United environment under senior heads like Goodwin, Ryan Kitto and the coaching staff.
Adelaide United have given him games, and nailed the balance and blend between youth and experience, particularly under the regime of SA great and ex-Socceroo Carl Veart where they’ve been a regular finals participant.
One of eight siblings and arriving in Australia as refugees after fleeing a Burundi civil war in the early 2000s, it would be impossible for most people to comprehend Irankunda’s upbringing. Whilst competition at Champions League contender Bayern is cut-throat, they gave a strong indication that they will support the young attacker’s transition.
While United and A-Leagues fans would relish having him here for another 18 months, by the time he leaves in June, he will have two solid seasons and a debut Socceroos call-up under his belt. This is what A-League clubs should aspire to hitting before selling their brightest young talents.
The reasons behind the increased transfer fees are so complex in unpacking, they deserve a standalone thesis.
Are our production lines getting better? Irankunda never played representative football in SA, before he was scouted playing for Adelaide Raiders by United youth scout Airton Andrioli. Nor did Mark Bresciano, before he was scouted playing for Australian Schoolboys.
Clearly Irankunda, like many of his contemporaries and golden generation predecessors, has benefitted from the volume of unstructured football he played in his youth.
Have he and others benefitted from the increased minutes and opportunities for younger players? Clearly. Are they better or have more opportunities presented themselves for external factors? Ask 10 people, you’ll get 20 varying responses.
Adelaide United, who were among the A-League’s early transfer trend-setters, selling Bruce Djite and Nathan Burns abroad in 2008 for over $1m combined, are realising the potential of the international transfer market.
The $1.75m boon could grow larger with add-ons, while a potential on-sale fee could be even more lucrative, as was the case for Melbourne Victory when Mitch Langerak was sold from Borussia Dortmund to Vfb Stuttgart.
Irankunda has as good a chance as any to feature for Bayern’s first team as he possesses weapons that European clubs relish.
His strike is powerful. He boasts pace and endurance. Having clocked 37kph earlier this season, Irankunda is the quickest player in Adelaide United’s recent history, and he is understood to be in the top few in endurance.
It will be exhilarating watching the Irankunda journey unfold.
And the beauty is, we have another six months seeing him in the A-Leagues before he bounces across to the Bundesliga, to join Harry Kane, Leroy Sane and co.