It's only a matter of time before Wilfried Bony leaves the GelreDome and takes the next step in his footballing career.
The Vitesse striker has been rumored to a number of clubs, most recently Newcastle (h/t Alex Hankin of the Daily Mirror) and various Russian clubs (h/t Sky Sports). Nothing came to fruition, so Bony is left to finish out the season in the Eredivisie.
Vitesse should consider itself quite lucky as well. The club is pushing for a Champions League place and losing Bony would have crippled that campaign. He's been in scintillating form this season, scoring 24 goals in 23 matches. When looking at the biggest leagues across Europe, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have more, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic tied.
With Bony on the radar of many clubs across Europe, it's only appropriate to break down exactly what kind of player he is and whether or not he can succeed in a better league.
The Eredivisie Bump
Bony would be far from the first player ever to look great in the Eredivisie, scoring bunches of goals, only to flop upon moving to a different league. The lack of defensive quality means that good finishers can run roughshod over opposing back fours.
Bas Dost scored 32 goals for SC Heerenveen last season and earned himself a move to Wolfsburg. In 23 Bundesliga matches, Dost has only managed eight goals. Luuk de Jong has similarly struggled in the German league, but injuries have helped to curtail part of his 2012/13 season.
For every Luis Suarez, there's at least two like Afonso Alves, who was a massive flop upon moving to Middlesbrough in 2008.
In terms of Bony, you have to wonder how much of his numbers are based on playing against inferior competition. In addition, the Ivorian has already doubled his output from last season at Vitesse. Prior to this year, the most goals Bony scored in one league season was 13, which he scored across both the Czech and Dutch first divisions.
Dutch football blog 11tegen11 had an interesting post speculating that if Bony were a professional cyclist, people would claim some form of performance-enhancing drug was being used. The article doesn't try to argue that Bony is taking PEDs, but rather that his numbers would be questioned much more heavily if viewed in a different context.
The best comparison one could make about Bony in terms of style is Radamel Falcao. While Bony is nowhere near El Tigre in terms of quality, their playing styles are similar.
Both are compact, physical strikers who always find themselves around the ball. Neither are exceptionally quick, but their strength allows them to bully defenders around. They're also very good headers of the ball. Falcao and Bony are both deployed as poachers near the penalty area.
Bony's ball skills are good, but he's not going to dazzle with his darting runs through the defence. Additionally, he really benefits from having time on the ball. A move to the Premier League could really prove problematic because Bony's not extremely gifted technically. The time on the ball he gets in the Eredivisie would be halved in England.
His strength is great for the Dutch first division. He can easily outmaneuver and outwork opposing back fours. Should he come up against more organized, stronger centre-backs, he'll likely run into trouble.
Another of Bony's strongest assets is his awareness. As a goalscorer, he's been exceptional with Vitesse at finding spaces in the defence and exploiting them, creating scoring chances for himself. Much more skilled defenders wouldn't allow him that space, though. They would mark him much more tightly.
When you combine it all together, you have a great striker in the Eredivisie, but one whose skills might limit him in more competitive leagues.
It's not blind luck that has netted Bony 24 goals. He is a good footballer but far from world class. Anybody referring to Bony as world class at this stage is absolutely nuts. The striker can be a very dependable finisher down the road, but he needs to make the right choice as to which club he moves to next. Making a wrong step can seriously curtail his potential.
Unlike Falcao, you have to question exactly where Bony's ceiling is. He doesn't have thrilling Europa League campaigns that have illustrated his skill against tougher opposition. And unlike Suarez prior to his Liverpool move, Bony's lacked transcendent performances internationally.
Bony's goal numbers are massively inflated by him being the main attacking threat at Vitesse. The second-leading goalscorer on the club is Jonathan Reis, who has seven. If Bony's only scoring 15-18 goals at this point, he's not getting anywhere near the kind of attention he currently commands.
Fans and clubs alike shouldn't expect this guy to hit the ground running as soon as he moves, especially should he move to the Premier League. A fee in the £10 million range is probably the best price at this point. Anything above that is overpaying for an unproven striker.
Bony can easily grow into a fantastic finisher capable of scoring in any league. On the other hand, you can just as easily see him ending up in the nether reaches of the footballing world after flopping on a big-time move this summer.
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