Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has claimed Bernie Ibini has “great upside” and will provide the MLS side with a different option up front after signing the Australian from Club Brugge.
The Whitecaps completed Ibini’s transfer from Brugge on Tuesday, ending the 24-year-old’s injury-plagued stint at the Belgian Pro League club.
The powerful winger never played a competitive game for Brugge after breaking his leg and tearing knee ligaments in training before the 2015-16 season, while he spent this term on loan at Sydney FC, winning the A-League premiership but missing out on Sunday’s grand final due to a hamstring strain.
Ibini made 20 appearances for the Sky Blues but only started once as he worked his way back from injury, scoring three goals
Robinson revealed Vancouver have had Ibini on their radar for “about six months” and predicted he will use the Central Coast Mariners youth product as both a winger and centre-forward.
“I think [the fans will] see an exciting young player, who’s got power, strength and is direct and is quite an exciting player to watch when he’s fully fit and in full flow. So he’ll fit into the group very well,” Robinson said when asked to describe Ibini.
“As I said, he’s different, he’s got different characteristics.
“We’ve got some really good wide players, obviously forwards – a couple of them are injured at the moment – so he’ll bring something a little bit different and allow us to go a different route if we want with [Colombian striker] Fredy [Montero].”
While reports in Australia indicated Ibini’s latest injury might scupper the move to the Whitecaps – the Nigeria-born speedster still needs to complete a medical – Robinson labelled it a “slight hamstring issue”.
Ibini moved from Nigeria to Australia when he was a child and grew up in Sydney before joining Central Coast’s youth side in 2009 and eventually playing 61 A-League matches in his first stint with the Mariners.
A move to China followed in 2013 with Shanghai Dongya, the forerunner of Shanghai SIPG, before he returned to the Mariners on loan following the unexpected death of his father later that year.
After a strong half-season with Central Coast, Ibini shone for Sydney in another loan stint in 2014-15 as the Sky Blues reached the A-League grand final, which lead to his transfer to Brugge.
Ibini has played two matches for the Socceroos with both appearances coming in October 2014.