VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Tuesday that the club has acquired winger/forward Bernie Ibini-Isei from Belgian Pro League side Club Brugge KV.
Here’s a closer look at the club’s newest acquisition.
SCOUTING REPORT: Ibini, 24, is a 6-foot-2 winger/forward who is “big, powerful, and very quick,” according to Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. Robinson said Ibini can play as a winger on either side of the pitch or as a centre forward. “The addition of Bernie will give us additional options; he can play as a target or in wide areas as he’s been doing a lot for Sydney.” Ibini is right-footed player, but he’s also scored “some cracking goals with his left foot” as Robinson noted and as his highlight reel illustrates.
BACKGROUND: Ibini was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria before immigrating to Australia as a young child with his family. Aside from brief stints in China and Belgium, Ibini has spent his entire professional career in Australia. He also has two caps with the Australian senior men’s national team, having appeared in two friendlies in 2014, and has represented Australia at the U-23 and U-20 levels.
REVIEWS: Robinson and his staff sought the opinion of Darren Bazeley, one of Robinson’s old teammates at Wolverhampton Wanderers who is now the head coach of New Zealand’s U-20 side, when doing their homework on Ibini. Whitecaps FC assistant coach Gordon Forrest also has a relationship with Bazeley from his time with New Zealand Football. “Numerous people I spoke to in Australia and New Zealand have identified him as one of the most exciting talents in the A-League," Robinson said. "Hopefully he can come in and get himself super fit and be an asset here. Because I firmly believe he’s got all the characteristics you need to be successful in this league.”
FAMILY MAN: Family comes first for Ibini, who is the eldest of four siblings. His sister, Princess, actually followed in his footsteps to play for Sydney FC in the Australian W-League. Ibini is the patriarch of the family – his father suddenly and tragically passed away from a heart attack in 2013. “He has the responsibility of being the father figure if you want to call it that,” Robinson said. “He’s had to grow up very quickly and that’s what he’s done.”
HUNGRY TO SUCCEED: In June 2015, Ibini joined Belgian Pro League side Club Brugge KV, thinking he was about to get his first experience playing in Europe. But that never happened after Ibini broke his leg in his first training session with the club, forcing him to miss the entire year. “They’re a good club and they’ve obviously seen a lot in him,” Robinson said of Club Brugge KV. “So we get someone who is hungry and keen to prove himself in Major League Soccer.”