South African international Bongani Zungu was unlucky not to have concluded his first season in Europe with a trophy after his team Vitoria Guimaraes suffered defeat against Benfica in the Taca de Portugal final.
Despite Zungu’s club falling short at the last hurdle, it has been a season to remember for the youngster, who helped his side secure a Europa League berth. Although, injuries at the beginning of the campaign hampered his progression, since his recovery towards the end of 2016, he has been an instrumental figure in the Guimaraes starting line-up. Most impressively, Zungu has started in 15 of Guimaraes’ 16 fixtures which he has played a part in, and in the process, he has overseen nine victories in the league.
But now with the season at an end, questions have been asked about the future of Guimaraes’ prized asset. The 24-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from some of the biggest clubs in Portugal, including the likes of the Portuguese giants Benfica and Porto, and he has also gained admirers from several other high profile clubs in Europe. Nonetheless, Zungu is left with a big decision in the upcoming weeks, with Guimaraes also looking to tie down the midfield general on a new and improved long term contract.
While Zungu is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s brightest talents, the key to his success has been how quickly he has adapted to Portuguese life. A mere glance at Zungu’s statistics over the past campaign and immediately one can understand why he is so highly sought after. According to Opta, in Zungu’s first season in the Portuguese top flight, he has already accumulated 1311 minutes of game time in the league and despite failing to find the back of the net, it is his passing and defensive capabilities which has stood out.
Zungu currently boasts an 83 percent pass success ratio, having successfully completed 575 passes out of a possible 686. He has also successfully made 24 tackles, 29 interception, as well as won 17 aerial balls. While Zungu’s defensive work should be lauded, his attacking form has not had the same spark. The former Mamelodi Sundowns player has failed to register any assists in the league, but it should be noted that he has created eight clear cut chances on goal, and he has scored on two occasions in Portuguese Cup competitions.
Worryingly though, Zungu has been guilty of losing possession 146 times but has subsequently recovered 82 times. This is something which Zungu needs to improve on next season as the going gets tougher.
Nevertheless, considering the club’s recent achievements and Zungu’s growth over the last 12 months, it is undeniable that he made the move to Europe at the right time. But it is important that he does not rush into his next big move. Despite the allure of a move to Europe’s big boys something not easy to disregard, Zungu cannot afford to throw away a golden opportunity for his development.
Zungu is a highly intelligent individual with the world at his feet and perhaps one more season at Guimaraes would do his development a world of good. But if Zungu is to make a move during the off season, Benfica is likely to be his destination, as reports have suggested, they have been extremely keen on his services. Nonetheless, what’s certain though, is the highly coveted midfielder won’t be returning to the Premier Soccer League anytime soon.