Once touted for great things around the time he signed for Celta Vigo, Theo Bongonda decided to go back to his roots in Belgium to rekindle a dwindling career, and it’s paid off.
Arriving at Zulte Waregem in the summer for £1.4m, the 23-year-old has enjoyed a plentiful season in his home country, scoring 14 goals and picking up 14 assists in 39 appearances.
In fact, he performed so well that he attracted interest from Brighton Hove & Albion and Celtic, who provided competition to Jupiler Pro League champions KRC Genk, who are expected to sign Bongonda to replace Leandro Trossard.
The news comes from DH in Belgium, who explain both the Seagulls and Neil Lennon’s side were interested in the winger’s services for next season, and their presence, alongside Mainz’s, Rennes’ and Hertha Berlin’s, made the player’s price shoot up.
The deal taking Bongonda to Genk is expected to reach €7m, which will be a record transfer fee between two Belgian clubs, beating the €6.3m Club Brugge paid Charleroi for Kaveh Rezaei.
It’s no surprise clubs like Brighton and Celtic took an interest in such a prolific forward, although both would have presented very different challenges for the player had he chosen either of them over Genk.
Instead, it appears he will remain in a league he feels comfortable in while playing Champions League football next season, knowing he will get game time once Trossard gets his big move elsewhere.