Adelaide United prodigy Nestory Irankunda has come a long way from a Tanzanian refugee camp to a record-breaking transfer to Bayern Munich.
Despite having just 30 A-League appearances to his name, the 17-year-old is already the most expensive player in Australian football history as United agreed to sell the wonderkid for $5.5 million.
Irankunda will link up with the perennial Bundesliga champions next July after Bayern decided it’s in the teenage sensation’s best interest to spend the rest of the 2023/24 season at Coopers Stadium.
For such a young player with a unique background, swapping football’s backwaters for one of the world’s most prominent clubs must be a realisation of his dreams.
Let’s look at his road from poverty to one of the world’s hottest prospects and a multi-year contract at the Allianz Arena.
Born in 2006 in Kigoma, Tanzania, in the midst of Burundi’s civil war, Irankunda spent the first three months of his life in a refugee camp as his family sought a way out of horror.
It must have been a great relief for the Irankundas to touch down on the Australian shores. They first found a place to live in Perth, West Australia, before moving to Adelaide, where their son fell in love with football.
He took his first football steps at the Northern Wolves and Parafield Gardens. His talents quickly drew the attention of National Premier League club Adelaide Crotaia Raiders scouts.
After a brief spell there, Irankunda received an invitation for a trial at Adelaide United, whose head of youth, Airton Andrioli, spotted his potential in 2020.
Weeks later, he became part of the club’s youth academy.
How It All Started?
Irankunda’s impressive form with United’s reserves earned him his first professional contract in September 2021.
United manager Carl Veart handed the teenager his debut for the club months later. In January 2022, he came off the bench against Melbourne Victory, becoming the sixth-youngest player in A-League history.
What better way to introduce yourself to professional football than scoring a stoppage-time winner? That’s how Irankunda cemented his first-team status at United in his third-ever senior appearance.
The clock was ticking, and Veart’s men seemed destined for a point against Newcastle Jets when Irankunda delivered a stunning free-kick goal in added time to secure a 2-1 win.
He scored again a month later. It took him only six minutes on the field to add to his tally, netting the 92nd-minute winner against Central Coast Mariners.
Despite failing to register a league start and being given just 183 minutes in his maiden campaign in senior football, Irankunda finished the 2021/22 season with three goals.
Rise to Stardom
Following an outstanding first season, United knew they had a generational talent on their payroll.
A limited game time didn’t prevent Irankunda from being selected in the A-League All Stars squad to face Barcelona in May 2022.
Suddenly, it all clicked for the pacey winger. He established himself as a permanent first-team fixture in 2022/23.
In his breakout season, Irankunda tallied five goals and two assists in 19 top-flight appearances.
The trend continues as he scored another sensational free-kick in a 6-0 thumping of Melbourne City at the start of the 2023/24 season.
If there’s a downside, it’s Irankunda’s flamboyant nature.
Despite his tender age, the winger has already gained a reputation as a troublemaker.
How often do you see an attacker pick up seven yellow cards in a season? Irankunda needed 19 matches to hit that unwanted milestone last term.
Moreover, the club sidelined him for a month for turning up late to several team meetings.
It took him a while, but he got there this season. Losing his temper down the final stages of a heated 1-1 draw against City earlier this month led to Irankunda’s first A-League red card.
While he can find an excuse in his youth, he’ll have to improve his behaviour if he’s to stand a chance at success at the highest level.
- Morning Mix: Kelleher must shine for Liverpool, time running out for Burnley manager
- This Week In Football: Dortmund conquer the group of death, Tigres lift sixth title in six years & more
- Big update on ‘excellent’ Arsenal star, agreement ‘expected’ in due course
- Top 10 football predictions for 2024
- Preview: Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Newcastle United vs Manchester United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Maguire & Sterling nominated for November Premier League POTM award
- Ten Hag, Howe, Iraola, Edwards up for Premier League MOTM award
- Man City FFP trial scheduled for late next year
- Three positives from Manchester United’s disappointing 3-3 draw against Galatasaray