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Mbokani: A Trip into the Rebirth of DR Congo’s ‘Lord of Goals’

A look at Dieumerci Mbokani, the DR Congo goal-scoring sensation making waves in Europe.

Born in Leopoldville, a burgeoning city renamed to Kinshasa, Dieumerci Mbokani is one goal-mad player rarely spoken of in the same bracket with the continent’s very best scorers.

Back pages only give a glimpse of his feat in their chronicling of top goal machines in Europe this season. Perhaps it’s owing to the continent he emerges from –Africa.

In comparison, The DR Congo international is just three goals shy of equaling the sixteen Bayern Munichen and Bundesliga serial striker Robert Lewandowski has pulled off, also the assassin headlining the scoring charts in Europe’s top-five best leagues.

While the Belgian First Division A, the league the African plies his services in, is only streets apart from the glamour of the Bundesliga, fires of optimism burn in the belief Mbokani can usurp the defence-tormenting Pole.

The season is young, the hope of this dream bearing fruit will sure be a story worth telling.

But first, the 34-year-old will need to shove aside Italy international Ciro Immobile and Shaktar Donetsk’s Junior Moraes who are each ahead of him by a goal.

It’s a shared adage that age takes a toll on an ageing footballer’s body. For the Antwerp marksman, age is but a number. 13 goals in 17 matches speak of but a terrific form in front of goal. This rebirth spans back to last campaign when he poached in a combined 13 goals in the Europa League and domestic division, months after he had departed Dynamo Kyiv on the heels of unprepossessing two-season loan stints at Norwich City and Hull City to switch to the four-time Belgian league kings Royal Antwerp on a Bosman transfer.

At the SNC Olimpiyskiy in Ukraine, Dieumerci felt he needed a fresh challenge and it took him no time to choose the 139-year old Belgian outfit as the preferred destination to re-launch his career.

It was suggested he’d passed his best or reached his “sell-by-date” when the attacker returned to Brussels, a championship he had placed defences on their bum for six consecutive terms, scoring 76 times and picking Belgium’s player of the year prize once.

The press in the European capital had run the rule on him even before the start of the season, dismissing him as a wasted investment, appearing to fail to reason beyond manager Laszlo Boloni’s belief in the Congolese who on his day could match the very gods of the Belgian game.

And as the story with all revived players once at low ebb, ‘never give up’ became the forward’s mantra – a watchword he has come to see into fruition with unrivalled determination key in his crusade.

Step-by-step, he endeared himself to fans beginning his life under Laszlo’s tenure with two goals in the Europa League play-off narrow 3-2 demolition of Sporting Charleroi May this year.

A return of eleven goals that year in thirty-one cameos, twenty-nine of those from the lineup, was no failure for the Kinshasa-born then rediscovering his scoring boots. By this time, DR Congo felt he was one of the deadwood scuppering The Leopards’ growth in the international stage and thought they could do without him with Cederic Bakambu perceived his like-for-like replacement.

In the ensuing championship after the 2018/19 campaign, Mbokani seemed to have developed an insatiable taste for netting. This trait has been the driving force behind the 34-year-old’s meteoric rise hence the 13 goals he has notched up this ongoing term.

Pundits who’d earlier written him off have long gulped down their partial assessment of the erstwhile AS Monaco goal-fetching gem, with the few overzealous ones already drawing conclusions that this year’s Ebony Shoe and best season player prizes are for his taking.

This admission, to Dieumerci’s credit, is a glaring testament of his worth copying age-defying transformation.

A €3.5m price tag for a 34-year-old soon to be 35, is a valuation difficult to see in the modern game with former Manchester United DC United striker Wayne Rooney, Japan’s Shinji Okazaki and erstwhile Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez the sole aging stars pegged around the aforesaid price in the current transfer market.

Fallen giants Anderlecht have been linked with the striker and are reportedly considering tabling an improved bid having seen an attempt to sign him on a free transfer in June hit the brick walls.

Royal Antwerp’s Chairman Jim Cohen is a stubborn economist and has moved swiftly to extend the attacker’s short term deal aware of the bucks he would be fetching them in the event of a future sale.

And that time appears to be at least in 2020, though they’re adamant he sees out the remainder of the season to aid their audacious title charge, thirty-one days prior to the elapse of his deal and then cash in on him to the highest bidder.

That intent, should it see the light of day, would represent business well done considering the Royals acquired the former Leopard’s services without forking out a penny.

Whichever European club goes on to purchase him won’t be wary of the goals drying up as the sensation is a proven goal-getter. Right from his time at first local employer Bel’ Or Kinshasa, he snatched the Lina Foot’s golden boot having plundered in 16 goals to tempt TP Mazembe into breaking the bank to snap him up. This opened the route for his switch to RSC Anderlecht in 2006 then Standard Liege 2007, Monaco in 2010 before Wolfsburg beckoned preceded by a stint to AS Monaco, a year later.

DR Congo’s Lord of Goals

The five-time Belgian title winner is DR Congo’s all-time top scorer at 18 goals in 41 caps.

France ex-youth international Cederic Bakambu, on 13 goals for DRC, is tipped to equal this tall order in the next three or so years. And while this will be a milestone for the now 28-year-old on a personal level, a recall for Mbokani to forge a partnership with Bakambu will work magic for the Central African nation’s common good who are perched at third place behind the Gambia and struggling in their AFCON 2021 qualification group.

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