Sports

May 22, 2024

Europa League: Why Boniface isn’t starting games – Alonso

Alonso and Boniface

By Ayobami Okerinde

Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso has revealed why Nigerian forward Victor Boniface has started fewer games following his return from injury.

Boniface suffered a groin injury in January while camping with the Super Eagles ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cote d’Ivoire.

Before the injury, Boniface was in red-hot form, scoring 10 goals and seven assists in just 16 Bundesliga appearances, with four goals in the UEFA Europa League and another two in the DFB Cup.

After a three-month injury lay-off, Boniface returned to action in Leverkusen’s 4-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf in the DFB Pokal semifinal, replacing Patrick Schick in the 66th minute.

Speaking ahead of Leverkusen’s Europa League final against Atalanta, when asked by journalist Oma Akatugba on Boniface’s lack of game time, Alonso said there’re many players who all want to be on the pitch at the same time.

His words: “After the injury, it takes time, but we have a wide squad. We have so many players, and all of them want to be on the pitch. I like when someone is not playing and shows the character to prove to me that ‘Coach, you were wrong; I have to be on the pitch’, that’s the challenge as a professional.

“I’m happy with Boniface and the impact that he’s had this year for us; he’s helped us so much, and we’re helping him back on track. Tell your people from Nigeria that we’re happy with him.”

Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen move closer to an ‘Invincible Treble’ as they take on Atalanta in the Europa League final.

Leverkusen have not lost in 51 games across all competitions and could wrap up a remarkable treble in two finals this week.

The game will take place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.